New Delhi: An impressive India bounced back from back-to-back defeats as they blanked higher-ranked Namibia 2-0 in their third international football friendly match of the month here on Wednesday.
Having lost to Thailand in their earlier two matches on September 4 and 8 in Bangkok and here respectively, India came up with a much improved show to beat their opponents ranked 44 places above them in the FIFA chart at the Ambedkar Stadium.
Ironically, the win came on a day when India dropped 22 places in the FIFA chart to 160th, one of the worst in the country’s history.
Mehrajuddin Wadoo put India in the lead in the 28th minute when his shot landed into the Namibian goal after deflecting from a defender while Anthony Pereira doubled the lead in the 54th minute with a gem of a goal with his curling free-kick from 30 yards finding the back of the net.
The win would boost the morale of Bob Houghton’s boys in their preparation for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup as they are set to play more matches against higher ranked sides in the coming months.
India were clearly the better side today with more cohesion and solidity in the defence while the midfield and forward line looked much sharper inside the opposition box.
India also did well in set pieces with tall striker and captain Abhishek Yadav making problems for the opposition on a few occasions.
The Namibians, who had come here without at least a dozen of their foreign -- mostly Europe -- based players as today was not a FIFA match day, lacked the sharpness though their coach Tom Saintfiet had said that they have not played for four months as their premier league has remained dormant.
It was difficult to differentiate between the two sides in the first half with both making some fine attacking moves though the goal-bound shots were far and between.
India, which made three changes in the starting line up of their last match against Thailand on September 8 here, seemed to have started picking up the form after playing two international friendly matches as they built up attacking moves with neat passes against their physically fitter opponents.
They were also helped by the surface which was much better than their last game as it was not raining today.
The back four of Surkumar Singh, Gouramangi Singh, Anwar Ali and Mahesh Gawli were impressive and they kept the attempts of their faster rivals at check. Surkumar was impressive at the right flank making his usual overlapping runs and sudden acceleration into the center of the park.
Striker Sunil Chhetri, who was not at his best against Thailand, was also in the thick of action though he could not get a clear chance.
The Namibians, on the other hand, looked fitter and faster but seemed to be far from getting over the rustiness of missing action for some months.
Captain and star midfielder Quinton Jacobs was at the thick of things initiating the moves and distributing passes and striker Alfred Ndyenge also made some threatening runs inside the Indian box but they did not get a clear chance in the first half.
The best chance they got was in the 41st minute when Heinrich Isaacks, after a low cross from the right, had a charge for the ball with only Indian goalkeeper Subrata Paul to beat.
India took the lead through a lucky goal as the right-footed shot from Wadoo, who started in place of Climax Lawrence today, went into the Namibian goal after deflecting from a defender.
India were denied a goal in the 39th minute with Abhishek, who began today in place of Mohammed Rafi, hitting the upright. Three minutes later, N P Pradeep’s right footer from just outside the box went wide.
The second half saw Namibia pressing for an equaliser and in the 52nd minute, right winger Heinrich Issacks made a solo run before his left footer from inside the Indian box sailed over the bar.
Issacks also missed a chance in the 73rd minute as he shot wide. Second half substitute Jerome Louis also shot wide from close range in the 81st minute.
Four minutes before time, Subrata Paul made a fine save in a one-on-one situation blocking the shot of Namibian striker Rudi Louw.
Next minute, Chhetri’s left-footer off a pass from Bhaichung Bhutia, who came in for Abhishek in the 65th minute, was brilliantly saved by a diving Namibian goalkeeper Attiel Mbaha.
The match turned a bit physical towards the close with Bhutia and Namibian defender Richard Gariseb both being shown the yellow card by referee Pratap Singh for a heated argument. Bhutia was later substituted by Mohammed Rafi just before the final whistle.
Houghton used as many 16 players with Renedy Singh, Climax Lawrence and N S Manju coming in towards the close of the match.