We were lucky not to lose, says Houghton

August 1st, 2008 - 9:43 pm ICT by IANS  

By Abhishek Roy
Hyderabad, Aug 1 (IANS) India’s football coach Bob Houghton heaved a sigh of relief Friday after his team drew 1-1 with defending champions Tajikistan and kept flickering hopes of a semi-final berth in the AFC Challenge Cup here. “We were lucky not to lose the match. In the second half, it could have gone anyone’s way. We could have won it as well,” the chief coach told reporters.

The Englishman also defended his move of making six changes to the side that scraped past Afghanistan in their Group A match. Houghton also had plans of resting Bhutia for this crucial tie but was forced to field the 32-year-old striker in the 58th minute, as India were trailing 1-0 in the second half at the Gachibowli Stadium.

“I would have loved to give Bhaichung and others some rest. One should remember that at the age of 32 the boy (Bhaichung) can’t run continuously in two matches in three days. But I had to bring on him because we were losing,” he added.

After Bhutia came in, India didn’t have to wait long for the equaliser. It came from a faulty clearance from Tajikistan goalkeeper Alisher Tuychiev in the 61st minute.

India played better compared to its last game but the defence wore a tattered look as Mahesh Gawli was not fully fit and had to be replaced in the second half with Surkumar Singh. Injured Deepak Mondal’s absence was also felt.

“Our defence was very bad. But I am happy that Mahesh is finding his touch. But Deepak will miss the rest of the tournament,” Houghton said.

India also played lot of long balls and the coach blamed the turf saying that it was not conducive to play passing game.

With four points in their kitty from two matches, India have to beat Turkmenistan by a big margin in its last group match Friday to qualify for the knock-out stage.

“We have to win the last match and finish as toppers in our group. It is very simple, no one would like to face North Korea in the semi-finals,” he said.

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