Lawrence’s late strike helps India scrape past Afghanistan

July 30th, 2008 - 11:01 pm ICT by IANS  

By Abhishek Roy
Hyderabad, July 30 (IANS) The 1-0 score-line was surely not the one with which India would have loved to open their campaign beating Afghanistan, in the AFC Challenge Cup football. But the last-minute goal by Climax Lawernce saved India the blushes in the Group A match at the Gachibowli Stadium here Wednesday. The entertaining match was headed towards a draw but in a late move Lawrence lashed a rebound from Sunil Chettri inside the box to score the winner.

India, tipped as one of the favourites to win the title, were flashy all throughout and undoubtedly missed the services of creative midfielder Steven Dias and reliable defender Mahesh Gawli.

India coach Bob Houghton tried to bring some creativity in the midfield by replacing Bungo Singh with seasoned Climax Lawrence with just 15 minutes left. But the Dempo midfielder failed to create any fruitful move. India’s midfield play was poor and the linkmen failed to keep pace with the forwards.

Captain Bhaichung Bhutia and Sunil Chettri missed headers in the first half while India had some close opportunities in the second half as well. But the hosts had to wait till the last minute for the winner.

Bhutia got the best opportunity but nodded wide from close range. A few minutes later the ball skimmed Chettri’s scalp after some good work from Lawrence.

Afghanistan showed that they are no pushovers and continued from where they left off in the SAFF Cup two months back. The strife-torn country has enough talent to emerge as one of the top teams in the sub-continent. They were under immense pressure in the first 20 minutes. Towards the half-way mark, they stepped up the attack on the hosts.

Their best chance in the first half came from their main striker Hafizullah Quadami but his powerful right-footer was parried away by Indian goalkeeper Subrata Paul.

The experience of some foreign based players showed in the maturity of the Afghanistan. Midfielder Ata Mohammed Yamrali and defender Djelaluddin Sharityar, who had played in lower division clubs in Germany, held the team together.

India needed to win this match against 181st ranked Afghanistan ahead of tougher battles against defending champions Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. But it was certainly not a cakelwalk for the hosts and had to toil hard till the last minute.

Afghanistan struggled to get a foothold in the early stages but began to enjoy possession as the interval approached. Their best chance fell to Hafizullah Qadami, who shot from close range, and goalkeeper Subrata Paul had to scramble to clear the ball over the bar.

After the break, Afghanistan continued to take the game to their opponents and although clear-cut chances were few and far between, their endeavours raised the decibel level in the stadium.

India: Subrata Paul (goalkeeper); Deepak Mondal, Anwar Ali, Gourimangi Singh, Surkumar Singh (Samir Naik, 66); Renedy Singh, N.P. Pradeep, Climax Lawrence, Bungo Singh (Clifford Miranda, 75); Sunil Chettri, Bhaichung Bhutia

Afghanistan: Amir Shamsuddin (goalkeeper); Zohib Islam, Djelaluddin Sharityar, Ali Ahmad Yarzada, Bashir Ahmad Sadaat; Israfeel Kohistani, Masood Hashemi, Ata Mohammed Yamrali, Syed Bashir Azimi; Hafizullah Qadami, Abdul Saboor Aser.

Referee: Masaki Iemoto (Japan).

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