Gourmangi’s last-gasp goal takes India into SAFF Cup final

June 11th, 2008 - 10:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Male, June 11 (IANS) A last-gasp goal in the extra time by Gourmangi Singh saw defending champions India scrape through to the final of the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Cup with a 2-1 win over lowly-ranked Bhutan at the National Stadium here Wednesday. It is indeed a creditable of Bhutan to have scored first and then take the match to the wire. The regulation time ended in 1-1 with Kenley Dorjee putting Bhutan up in the 20th minute and ten minutes later Sunil Chettri firing in the equaliser.

The keenly contested battle appeared to be heading for a shoot-out when Gourmangi came up with the winner, lobbing an Anwar’s header over goalkeeper Jigme Singme in a scramble.

Bhutan, ranked 196th in the world, were handful for the Indians and with a little luck they could have upset the subcontinental champions. They may have lost, but certainly not disgraced. They also shattered the myth of India’s superiority in the region.

The Bhutanese not only outsprinted the Indians, but also excelled in their immaculate passing, strikers Nima Sangay and Kenley often sidestepping Indian defenders. But their poor finishing was their undoing.

Bhutan’s Japanese coach Koji Goyotoku, who had predicted a close and hard-fought game, was bang on money. They fought all the way and the sigh of relief on Indian captain Bhaichung Bhutia’s face when the final whistle was blown said it all.

It was easily one of the most unimpressive performances from the Indians, ranked 153. There was hardly any cohesive move and plenty of aimless punting and mispassing.

Surprisingly, Bhaichung and Chettri could not knit any worthwhile goal-bearing move. To be fair to the Indian captain, he was heavily policed by the Bhutanese defenders. The ragged midfield hardly helped matters, though the hard-working N.P. Pradeep should have scored at least on five occasions, but for his wayward attempts. Bhutia, too, missed a sitter in the last quarter. Earlier in the first session, Chhetri was guilty of muffing an easy chance.

The Bhutanese stunner came as they took the Indians completely by surprise in the 20th minute through a counter attack. An unmarked Kenley had little difficulty in putting it past a clumsy Subroto Paul in the goal,the ball going under his arm.

After conceeding the goal, India pepped up their attack and found the equaliser within ten minute through Chettri, who shot in from a clever pass from Pradeep.

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