|India U-19 line-up against Turkmenistan.
TEHRAN: The skies did clear but the chill pinched. In a weather where playing football is perhaps the best activity, India’s U-19 boys got off to a winning start on the opening day of the AFC U-19 Qualifiers when they beat a 10-man Turkmenistan 3-1 at the historical Takhti Stadium in Tehran.
Brandon Fernandes put India in the lead when he converted a penalty in the 39th minute only for Myradov to equalise in the 56th minute. Captain Malswamfela doubled India’s lead in the 60th minute while Prabir Das completed the rout in the 82nd minute.
One is bound to be a bit nostalgic the moment one steps in the Takhti. Built in 1973, it played host to the 1974 Asian Games. The 30,000-seater Stadium doesn’t have any stands on the far side — it has been left clear for the Alborz Mountain Range to watch; and the Indians didn’t disappoint the majestic Alborz.
It was a clinical display by the U-19 colts. They were not in a hurry and preferred to play the waiting game. In fact, Turkmenistan tried to dominate early as they preferred to attack down the left with Captain Durdiyev Didar and Muhadov Suleyman staying keen in making a mark. But a stubborn Pritam Kotal stood firm, thwarting and intercepting.
As the game progressed, the Indians took over. Brandon Fernandes and Sehnaj Singh took control and with Holicharan Narzary and Captain Malswamfela interchanging, the Turkmenistan defence was stretched a lot.
The first goal came in the 39th minute. Brandon, who with his deft touches had always kept the rival defence guessing, got past Gurt Podarov with a sudden burst of speed on the right side. Caught on the wrong foot, Podarov, all in desperation had little option but to bring Brandon down inside the box only to be given marching orders. Brandon gleefully converted from the spot to put India in the lead.
Changing over, quite against the run of play, Myradov pulled it back for Turkmenistan in the 56thminute. But it didn’t last long as four minutes later, Fela side-stepped two defenders before blasting it in.
Keen to seal the fate early, Coach Colm Toal introduced a double substitution – Johnychand Singh coming in place of Brandon Fernandes and Prabir Das replacing Pronay Halder — and the fresh legs sealed the final nail. In the 82nd minute, Prabir complemented stayed alert to tap in India’s third goal after Holicharan Narzary had snaked past a couple of defenders down the left flank. For India, birthday-boy Anto Xavier was red-carded in the 86th minute.
India next play Iran on November 2.
In another match, Uzbekistan U-19 defeated Pakistan U-19 3-0.
India U-19: Ravi Kumar; Narayan Das, Bikramjit Singh, Sonu, Pritam Kotal; Brandon Fernandes (Johnychand Singh – 67th minute), Anto Xavier, Sehnaj Singh, Pronay Halder (Prabir Das – 69th); Holicharan Narzary, Malswamfela (C) (Sunny – 85th).
For detail of full schedule – click here
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