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Asia

AFC Challenge Cup - Qualifiers: India score comeback win

An India vs. Pakistan match-up in any sport promises to be an interesting game and this was too. Though it wasn’t quite like a cricket or hockey match, the excitement was just as great.

India beat Pakistan in an exciting game

India beat Pakistan in an exciting game

An India vs. Pakistan match-up in any sport promises to be an interesting game and this was too the case in Wednesday afternoon’s football match. Though surely many would say it wasn’t quite the quality of a cricket or hockey match, the excitement was just as great.

India scored a late 3-1 comeback win against neighbours Pakistan in a Group B qualifier for the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup at the MBJP Stadium, Petaling Jaya in Malaysia. India now have six points from two matches and have sealed their place in next year’s final, while Pakistan remain pointless and are out of the competition.

India coach Bob Houghton made one change in his line-up from the team’s 3-0 win against Taipei on Monday. He replaced young Raju Gaikwad with experienced Anwar in defence, which meant Anwar came in as a central defender while Govin Singh moved into the right back position.

It was mainly India in the initial stages of the game as the Bhangra Boys were looking for an early breakthrough. But it didn't come - on the contrary, Pakistan took a surprise 32nd minute lead through striker Arif Mehmood after an error by the Indian defence. It remained 1-0 for Pakistan at the break and an upset looked possible.

But after the break Pakistan had to fight to hold onto this lead with India captain Sunil Chhetri having the first couple of chances. The pressure was high and in the 67th minute young Jeje Lalpekhulua got India's deserving equaliser off a Syed Rahim Nabi pass from the left. But it wasn't over yet as India continued to press hard for the winner, while Pakistan did try the odd counter attack. India took the lead on the stroke of full time through a well curled free kick from winger Steven Benedic Dias, while a second from Jeje Lalpekhulua deep into injury time sealed the game in favour of India.

Bob Houghton's boys showed character by coming back from a goal down against a tricky opponent in a derby with Pakistan doing a good job defensively. But India had the momentum from their win against Taipei on their side – a young side that has gained maturity in various national teams over the years.

After the game Bob Houghton said, "The result tells that we dominated the match. The team has always shown great character to come back and always carry the fighting spirit. But we missed easy chances today; also we hit the woodwork on couple of occasions."

Man of the moment youngster Jeje Lalpekhulua said, "It is an amazing experience to play in the senior national team. It was good to win and everyone contributed equally. The goals came because of everyone's hard work and effort. It would be unfair to single any one person out. It is also an amazing feeling to play with Sunil Chhetri! He really gives me confidence."

In the day’s other match Turkmenistan beat Taipei 2-0, which meant that India and Turkmenistan are through to next year’s finals of the AFC Challenge Cup. These two sides would now meet on Friday to decide the group winner, while Pakistan face Taipei to decide who finishes bottom of the four team group.

MATCH STATS

INDIA 3-1 (0-1) Pakistan - Goals: 0-1 Arif Mehmood (34'), 1-1,3-1 Jeje Lalpekhulua (67',90+4'), 2-1 Steven Benedic Dias (90')

Author: Arunava Chaudhuri

Editor: Sarah Berning

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