India beat Pak 3-1; qualify for AFC Challenge Cup final round
Kuala Lumpur: India struck two late goals as they beat Pakistan 3-1 in their second league match of the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers to book a place in the final round of the tournament at Kuala Lumpur.
With the win at MBPJ Stadium, their second in as many matches after thrashing Chinese Taipei 3-0 on Monday, India have secured six points, enough to advance to next year`s final round.
Turkmenistan beat Chinese Taipei 2-0 in today`s another league match to also qualify for the final round. Turkmenistan had beaten Pakistan 3-0 in their opening match.
The top two sides from Group B will qualify to the final round. The venue for the final round is yet to be decided.
India had won the 2008 edition of the tournament which had given them the right to play in the AFC Asian Cup in Qatar in January.
India trailed 0-1 at the breather, with striker Arif Mohammed scoring for Pakistan, but Jeje Lalpekhlua (67th and 90+3) and Steven Dias (90th, penalty) sealed India`s victory.
Both sides started on a cautious note but India made a few shots at the opposition goal through defender Anwar Ali and Jeje in the first 15 minutes of the game.
It was, however, Pakistan who took the lead against the run of the play in the 32nd minute. Striker Arif shot a low angle right-footer from near the sidelines which hit the ground and took uneven bounce before beating India custodian Subrata Pal.
After change of ends, India pressed for goals and captain Sunil Chhetri`s attempt a minute into the second half saw the ball hitting the cross bar.
India had another attempt in the 65th minute when Chhetri collided with Pakistan defender Manzoor Ahmed and the ball nearly missed the cross bar.
The incessant attack bore fruit as India found the equalizer through Jeje in the 67th minute. Winger Syed Rahim Nabi laid the ball through the left flank and Jeje did no mistake in beating Pakistan custodian Amir Gul.
Bob Houghton`s charges took 2-1 lead in the 90th minute from the spot kick after a Pakistani defender brought down Jeje in a dangerous tackle inside the area. Dias stepped up to convert from the spot.
Jeje completed his brace in the third minute of the four-minute injury time from a counter attack.
Pakistan forward line moved towards the Indian box seeking for an equalizer but a swift counter attack by India saw Chhetri lobing the ball from near the centerline to Jeje who got the better of a couple of Pakistani defenders before finding the net to make it 3-1.
India will play Turkmenistan on Friday in the last league match to decide the group topper.
Houghton praised his charges for their fighting spirit to recover from a goal down.
"It was a good game and the result tells we were really dominating. We were down by a goal at half time. But the boys showed good spirit to come back," he said after the match.
"We missed chances, so many easy chances. We hit the post, cross bar. We should have two penalties through handballs on goal line."
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