Sunday, 27 March 2011

AFC Challenge Cup 2012 Qualifiers: Turkmenistan 1-1 India - Jeje Scores Again As Unbeaten Team India Win Group B

Young Jeje Lalpekhlua scored for the third consecutive game as Team India fought back to hold Turkmenistan in their final Group B match of the AFC Challenge Cup 2012 qualifiers.

Substitute Gahrymanberdi Chonkayev converted a spot-kick to give the Central Asians the lead early in the second period but India equalized through Jeje, who netted his fourth goal in three games.

Both India and Turkmenistan finish with seven points from their three matches and have the same goal difference of +5 but Bob Houghton's side win Group B for having scored one goal more than the Turkmen.

Bob Houghton had stated before the match that he would give the other members of the squad a chance to start as India had already qualified.

The English coach made as many as seven changes to the eleven that started against Pakistan with C.S. Sabeeth making his international debut by partnering the in-form Jeje upfront.

N.Mohanraj was the other debutant in the Indian team as he slotted in at left back. Raju Gaekwad was Anwar Ali’s central defensive partner while Denzil Franco was the right back.

Indian Arrows members Jewel Raja & Shilton D’Silva formed a new-look central midfield partnership with Nabi operating on the left wing and Joaquim Abranches on the other flank.

As anticipated in our preview, goalkeeper Subrata Paul was named captain for the very first time in his international career.

Turkmenistan coach Yazguly Hojageldiyev once again rotated his team around but still his team started the game the better and created a couple of really good chances in the opening stages.

The best opportunity of the first half fell to midfielder Gurbani Amir, who found himself in a one-on-position with Paul, but the Indian skipper made a smart save to preserve his team’s clean sheet.

India slowly started creating a few openings of their own with Syed Rahim Nabi coming close with a speculative effort from just outside the box.

But the remainder of the first half saw very few chances created at either end as the score read goalless at halftime.

Seven minutes into the second period Turkmenistan was awarded a penalty when Raju Gaekwad was penalized for a foul on Begli Annageldiyev inside the box.

Striker Gahrymanberdi Chonkayev, who came on at half-time, successfully converted the spot-kick to give his side the lead.

For the second straight game India conceded first but just like the clash against Pakistan, they showed plenty of character and team spirit to comeback in the game.

After a nice exchange of passes between Jewel Raja and Joaquim Abranches, the latter found out Jeje Lalpekhlua, who produced a fine finish to find the back of the net and make it 1-1.

It was Jeje’s fourth goal in three games, a truly dream start to his international career.

The former Pune FC striker could have won the game for India in the 85th minute but his powerful effort narrowly missed the target.

After making so many changes to his starting lineup and having so many youngsters on the pitch, India coach Bob Houghton will be more than happy with this result.

India Starting Lineup: Subrata Paul (c); Denzil Franco, Anwar Ali, Raju Gaekwad, N.Mohanraj; Joaquim Abranches, Jewel Raja, Shilton D’Silva, Syed Rahim Nabi; C.S. Sabeeth & Jeje Lalpekhlua
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