first_imgThe ability to look for goal scoring opportunities is what sets a striker apart. Sunil Chhetri’s header in the stoppage time in the first half against Syria in the opening match of the Nehru Cup exemplifies that point.The striker’s goal and substitute Anthony Pereira’s long ranger gave India a 2-1 victory over Syria on a rain soaked evening on Wednesday. Syria pulled a goal back in the 92 nd minute through Alaa Alshbli.The sparse crowd at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium did its best to cheer the Chhetri-led team but the Syrians matched them for every move. There was a stoppage of 15 minutes because of poor visibility due to heavy downpour but it is something the Delhi crowd is used to as the World Cup qualifier against the UAE last year was also played in similar conditions.Despite little assistance from the midfield, Chhetri was always on the ball and had his first look on the goal in the 10th minute but his snap shot went just wide. The Syrians responded by stitching a few good moves and did not allow the Indian midfielders to settle down.Debutant Sanju Pradhan made some moves down the right flank and on one such occasion found Chhetri, though the striker failed to control the ball.There was a flurry of moves from the Syrians and they made good use of the flanks. Hani Altayar came close in the 20th minute when an aerial ball found its way in the ‘box’ but Raju Gaikwad and Subrata Paul averted any danger.advertisementAlthough the players had difficulty in passing the ball, the Syrians had most of the scoring opportunities in the first half. Syria almost took the lead as Hani headed the ball towards goal in the 38th minute, but Subrata stopped it.The 15-minute stoppage proved lucky for India as Clifford Miranda went past the defenders down the left flank in the 40th minute and sent a cross. It was, however, cleared by the Syrian defence. Miranda’s efforts bore fruit after seven minutes as he went past a defender to find an unmarked Chhetri, who made no mistake in heading home from close range.In the second half, Syria made a few changes and started with an attacking intent. The Indians defended and made sporadic forays in the rival half by putting long balls to Chhetri, who was tightly marked by the Syrian defence.Slushy field meant that the players would lunge for every ball and the match saw a lot of fouls being committed. Uzbek referee Tseylin V was forced to dish out the yellow cards four times.India’s strategy in the second was hard to decipher as the players were hardly able to build moves. Deploying a 4-4-1-1 formation in the first half and later 4-5-1 in the second half, Chhetri was the lone man upfront and Pradhan had to be substituted in the 70th minute as coach Wim Koevermans looked for variety in his attack.The Syrians used their superior physical built to dictate terms in the midfield but the profligacy of their strikers let them down.The fact that goal-keeper Subrata Paul was also shown the yellow card shows that the Indians were a bit edgy.However, Pereira’s strike in the 84th minute eased the tension in the Indian camp.India coach Wim Koevermans praised the performance of his boys, saying that the conditions forced him to adapt a different strategy in the second half.”We started the game brightly and were good for the first 20-25 minutes. Rain had a huge influence on the game and passing the ball was risky. But the team defended extremely well and the goal we conceded was a momentary lapse of concentration. But we are improving,” said Koevermans.Today’s match: Maldives vs Nepal, 7 pm, Live on NEO Primelast_img

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