The Bob Houghton coached newly formed Indian senior national team started their AFC Challenge Cup Group B qualification campaign on a winning note. The Bhangra Boys beat Chinese Taipei 3-0 at the MBPJ Stadium in Petaling Jaya outside of Kuala Lumpur with goals from Jeje Lalpekhulua, captain Sunil Chhetri and substitute Shaikh Jewel Raja to earn their first three points of the competition.
There were fears if the newly put together squad could perform after an only five day camp, but the young experimental side delivered. The pressure was on experienced Subrata Pal, Gouramangi Singh, N.S. Manju, Steven Dias, Syed Rahim Nabi and captain Sunil Chhetri to lead a young team; while Govin Singh, Rakesh Masih and Jagpreet Singh had to prove what they have learned under Bob over the last few years while debutants Raju Eknath Gaikwad and Jeje Lalpekhulua have been showing for the Indian Arrows in the I-League that they are talents to look forward to.
India started off the game with a positive frame of mind against a Chinese Taipei, who had problems especially with our wingers Nabi and Steven Dias, while Rakesh Masih and Jagpreet where more content in holding the ball in midfield and blocking the opponents.
India where the dominant side in the first session, but only had one goal to their name. Jeje Lalpekhulua took his Indian Arrows and Under-23 national team form into his debut for the senior side as he gave his side a 32nd minute lead off a Steven Dias cross which Sunil Chhetri headed on.
It initally looked a more even game after the break, but India once again had more of the exchanges and doubled their lead in the 76th minute through a strike from new captain Sunil Chhetri off a pass from Jeje. The third and final goal came from a long range effort by substitute Shaikh Jewel Raja off a pass from Sunil Chhetri in the 86th minute.
After the match coach Bob Houghton said, "It was good game for us. Some young boys made their debut and fared pretty well. Jagpreet and Rakesh had a good game in the midfield and did very well. Chhetri too had a great game and playing his first game as captain scored a goal. He also paved the way for other goals."
In the groups other match of the day Turkmenistan won 3-0 against Pakistan. This means after match day one India and Turkmenistan lead the group with three points each.
INDIA 3-0 (1-0) Chinese Taipei - Goals: 1-0 Jeje Lalpekhulua (32'), 2-0 Sunil Chhetri (76'), 3-0 Shaikh Jewel Raja (88')
INDIA: 1-Subrata Pal; 2-Govin Moirangthem Singh, 19-Gouramangi Moirangthem Singh, 14-Raju Eknath Gaikwad, 3-Nanjangud Shivananju Manju (70' 9-Joaquim Santan Abranches); 23-Steven Benedic Dias (72' 15-Jewel Shaikh Raja), 4-Rakesh Masih (85' 16-Shilton Sydney D'Silva), 29-Jagpreet Singh, 22-Syed Rahim Nabi; 11-Sunil Chhetri [C], 12-Jeje Lalpekhulua
Substitutes: 13-Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, 5-Anwar, 7-Denzil Michael Franco, 8-Nirmal Chetri, 10-C.S. Sabeeth, 17-Nalappan Mohanraj
Not in Squad: 31-Jagroop Singh, 6-Baldeep Singh, 18-Chongtham Sushil Kumar Singh
Referee: Mohammed Nafeez Bin Abdul Wahab (Malaysia)
Asst Referees: Waleed A.R.A. Abhushish (Jordan), Mohammed Hanif Abdul Bin Rahman (Malaysia)
Fourth official: Mohammed Salem Abdullah Alrshaidat (Jordan)
Match Commissioner: Manirul Islam (Bangladesh)
Referee Assessor: Yazbeck Yazbeck (Lebanon)