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 years final, while Pakistan remain pointless.
An India vs Pakistan match-up in any sport promises to be an interesting game and this was too the case in today's football match though surely many will say it wouldn't be of the quality of a cricket or hockey match.
India coach Bob Houghton made one change in his line-up from the teams 3-0 win against Chinese 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 rather on the contrary Pakistan took a surprise lead after the half hour mark through Arif Mehmood after an error by the Indian defence. It remained 0-1 for Pakistan at the break.
Pakistan was now fighting to hold onto this lead with India captain Sunil Chhetri having the first couple of chances after the break. The pressure was growing and young Jeje Lalpekhulua got a deserving equaliser in the 67th minute off a Syed Rahim Nabi pass from the left. But it wasn't over yet as India continued to press for the winner, while Pakistan did try the odd counter attack. India took the lead on the stroke of full time through a curled freekick 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 today by coming back from a goal down against a tricky opponent, who defensively stood very well. But India had the momentum from their win against Chinese Taipei on their side and these boys have all matured 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. We should also have two penalties through handballs on the goalline."
Man of the moment young striker 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 days other match Turkmenistan beat Chinese Taipei 2-0, which means that India and Turkmenistan are through to next years finals of the AFC Challenge Cup. These two sides would now meet on Friday to decide the group winner.
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')
INDIA: 1-Subrata Pal; 2-Govin Moirangthem Singh (46' 7-Denzil Michael Franco), 19-Gouramangi Moirangthem Singh, 5-Anwar, 3-Nanjangud Shivananju Manju; 23-Steven Benedic Dias (90+3' 14-Raju Eknath Gaikwad), 4-Rakesh Masih, 29-Jagpreet Singh (66' 16-Shilton Sydney D'Silva), 22-Syed Rahim Nabi; 11-Sunil Chhetri [C], 12-Jeje Lalpekhulua
Substitutes: 13-Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, 6-Baldeep Singh, 8-Nirmal Chetri, 9-Joaquim Santan Abranches, 10-C.S. Sabeeth, 15-Jewel Shaikh Raja, 17-Nalappan Mohanraj
Not in Squad: 31-Jagroop Singh, 18-Chongtham Sushil Kumar Singh
PAKISTAN: 13-Faisal Iqbal; 2-Zeshan Rehman, 5-Samar Ishaq, 3-Manzoor Ahmad, 16-Muhammad Adil, 22-Syed Arif Hussain, 6-Adnan Farooq Ahmed, 4-Atif Bashir Qureshi, 10-Arif Mehmood, 7-Muhammad Qasim
Substitutes: 1-Muhammad Umer, 8-Nasrullah Khan, 9-Muhammad Rizwan Asif, 11- Abdul Aziz, 12-Imran Niazi, 14-Alamgir Khan, 17-Mahmood Khan, 19-Kashif Mumtaz Siddiqi, 20-Pathan Jadeed Khan, 21-Kaleemullah
Referee: Mohammed Salem Abdullah Alrshaidat (Jordan)
Asst Referees: Mohammed Hanif Abdul Bin Rahman (Malaysia), Waleed A.R.A. Abhushish (Jordan)
Fourth official: Mohammed Nafeez Bin Abdul Wahab (Malaysia)
Match Commissioner: Manirul Islam (Bangladesh)
Referee Assessor: Yazbeck Yazbeck (Lebanon)