India pip Pakistan in football friendly

Bangalore: Asian Games-bound Indian football team, reduced to 10 men for the last 20 minutes, snatched a 1-0 win against visiting Pakistan in the first of the two friendlies here Sunday.

A 46th-minute Robin Singh strike was the only differentiating factor between the two well-matched sides in a pacy and spicy encounter that seemed to satiate a packed crowd at the Bangalore Football Stadium.

Robin, however, blotted his record by earning two yellow cards, one in each half, resulting in an automatic red card send-off in the 70th minute.

The teams took turns to dominate with the Indians dominating the first-half and the visitors having more say in the proceedings on resumption. But at the finish, neither team showed the sharpness or accuracy to convert chances into goals.

The big surprise in the first half was that India scored just once despite holding the upper hand for much of the session that saw the hosts weaving circles around the Pakistani defence.

Yet, it was a reflection of some poor finish of the Indian forwards who showed prodigality in wasting opportunities that should have been converted.

Needless to say, the Indian moves revolved around their three seniors -- skipper Sunil Chhetri, Robin and Francis Fernandes -- with the trio orchestrating majority of the attacks.

The Pakistani defence was stretched to breakpoint as India used the wings well and the crosses into the box were usually unerring, but went unutilised until Robin headed in a corner kick by Lalrindka Ralte in stoppage time.

The ball bounced off the upright and struck Chhetri before entering the net. The goal, however, was credited to Robin.

Credit also is due to Pakistan goalkeeper Saqib Hanif who displayed excellent anticipation and agility to get to the high balls to frustrate India.

On their part, Pakistan played as well as they were allowed to but spent most of the first half defending, although they did squeeze in a few moves.

In fact, the visitors came close to scoring in a sequence of events that clearly exposed the fragile Indian defence. A throw-in into the penalty area caused panic in the Indian ranks and it was just as well for the hosts that none of the three Pakistani forwards could control the bounce and Mandar Rao Dessai, positioned behind goalkeeper Amrinder Singh, managed to head the ball to safety.

Pakistan showed some urgency in the second-half that they began strongly and nearly scored within four minutes as Saddam Hussein lobbed to skipper Kalimullah whose attempt was well saved by a diving custodian Amrinder.

The trend continued with Pakistan looking more aggressive while India managed to squeeze in a few moves that troubled but did not breach the defence where rival goalkeepers answered all the questions thrown at them.

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