chettri2Defending champions India sealed the three points against Syrians in their opening game of the Nehru Cup at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Delhi on Wednesday evening. Sunil Chhetri put India ahead in the added time at the end of the first half while Anthony Pereira doubled the lead in the 84th minute. The Syrians did manage to pull one back through Alaa Alshbbli in the 91st minute as the scoreline read 2-1 in the end.

India started off in a 4-4-1-1 formation with Sanju Pradhan, making his debut, and Clifford Miranda on the right and left wings with Francis Fernandes playing in the hole behind the striker Sunil Chhetri. The Syrians lined up in 4-4-2 with Hani Altayar and Mardek Mardikian being the two strikers upfront.

It was cagey start as neither side looked to take the game by the scruff of the neck as they exercised caution over flair. The first shot of the game came through Sunil Chhetri as he unleashed a snap shot with his back to goal which went wide in the 10th minute.

There was a phase when the Indians were playing the ball on the ground with at least six-to-seven well strung passes. However the lack of composure showed as they would literally hand the possession back to the Syrians.

The first real chance of the game came in the 26th minute when Altayar beat Gaikwad for pace and an onrushing Subrata Paul only to send the ball wide with an open goal in front of him to aim at.

Bhaichung Bhutia congratulated Indian Team in the dressing roomJust around the half hour mark, Ali Ghalioum found Ali Tyar and the striker crossed for Mardek Mardikian who fluffed his chance from six yards out after he got in between Raju Gaikwad and Gouramangi Moirangthem.

The play was stopped for ten minutes due to heavy showers which waterlogged the pitch. When the play did resume, Raju Gaikwad was at fault again as the defender missed his header which allowed Mardikian a chance to shoot from inside the box had it not been for an alert Subrata Paul who came off his line to deny the Syrian striker.

A couple of minutes later, Ali Ghalioum won the ball and saw his shot from 20 yards go straight into the hands of Subrata Paul.

Just seconds before the half-time whistle, India went ahead when Clifford Mirands, from the left, escaped the tackle from Jehad Albour to send in a cross which was headed into the far corner by Sunil Chhetri as he out jumped Mohammed Zubaida.

The waterlogged pitch didn’t help the cause of the two teams as they looked to string together a move.

Six minutes after the break and the Syrians could have found their equalizer had it not been for the profligacy of Mardek Mardikian. Ghalioum’s cross from the right saw Nirmal Chettri’s header fall safely for Mardikian who was in acres of space but lost his footing.

Frustrated by the missed opportunities by Mardikian, the Syrian coach Marwan Khouri brought on Hamoud Al Hamoud to bolster his side’s attack around the hour mark.

India’s first chance came in the 70th minute as Jehad Albour was robbed of the ball by Francis Fernandes to be through on goal. However the Salgaocar winger lost his composure and saw his shot go high and wide in the 70th minute.

A couple of minutes later, a back-pass by Ahmed Alsalih saw Taha Moosa, the goalkeeper, fail to control which could have allowed Francis a chance to double the lead. Lenny Rodrigues too testes the goalkeeper from distance with a well struck shot.

Just when India were focusing on clearing the ball at every instance, a cross field ball by Lenny saw substitute Anthony Pereira who cut inside Mohammed Zubaida with ease to unleash a curling left footed shot which nestled into the far corner in the 84th minute.

Alaa Alshbbli was allowed to score from inside the box as he connected with an Ouday Abduljaffal’s free-kick to make it 2-1 in added time after Raju Gaikwad failed to mark his man.

However the game ended with the same scoreline which handed the Blue Tigers three points. India next play Maldives on August 25 while the Syrians take on Cameroon on the 24th.

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