India to take on Pakistan in AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers
Kuala Lumpur: High on confidence after the 3-0 thrashing of Chinese Taipei in their campaign opener, India would look to continue the winning momentum against Pakistan and seal a place in the AFC Challenge Cup final round on Wednesday.
Bob Houghton`s charges, an experimental side with a mixture of senior players and youngsters, completely outplayed Chinese Taipei in the Group B opening match of AFC Challenge Cup qualifying round at the MBPJ Stadium on Monday.
They need just a win to qualify for the final round which will be held next year. The two top sides from the four-team group will qualify for the final round.
India, the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup winners, which gave them the chance to play in the Asian Cup in Qatar in January, will start as clear favorites against neighbors Pakistan who have been thrashed 0-3 by 2010 AFC Challenge Cup runners-up
India had beaten Pakistan 2-1 in their last meeting in Male, Maldives in the 2008 SAFF Cup 2008.
Houghton tried seven new faces, six of them making their senior international debut, including I-League side Indian Arrows players Raju Gaikwad, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Jewel Raja and Shilton D`Silva, and he is expected to use a few othersagainst Pakistan. Viva Kerala striker C S Sabeeth, who scored a crucial goal against Myanmar in the Olympic qualifiers first round last month, is expected to make his senior debut.
Midfielder Baldip Singh, who had played a few fames for the senior side including international friendlies last year in the build-up to the Asian Cup, had suffered injury while training and is unlikely to play tomorrow. Jagpreet Singh and Rakesh Masih had done well in the central midfield against Chinese Taipei and they are expected to start tomorrow also.
Houghton said his side would look to get full points so that he can field more new faces in the last match against Turkmenistan on Friday. "Obviously we need to win the second game against Pakistan tomorrow. We will be guaranteed a place in the finals of the Championship that obviously is most important. Bottom-line is to win this. If we win tomorrow, we will not have pressure in third game and we can play some of the younger players," he said after the team training.
Striker Sunil Chhetri, who scored a goal in his first match as captain against Chinese Taipei on Monday, asked the players not to lower their guards against Pakistan."Pakistan match is an important one for us. It is important for us to win," he said."It is not easy to play three matches in five days. But we should play to gain three points and secure ourselves a place in the final round," he added.