India retain Nehru Cup, makes it a hat-trick
Story Dated: Thursday, September 6, 2012 11:21 hrs IST
India’s captain Sunil Chhetri (11) gestures after scoring team’s 2nd goal agianst Cameroon during Nehru cup final match.
New Delhi: India showed nerves of steel to overcome Cameroon 5-4 via penalty shootout and retain the Nehru Cup football tournament as coach Wim Koevermans' first assignment in the hot seat ended in glory, here Sunday.
The match went into tie-breaker after the two teams were locked 2-2 at the end of 120 minutes of play at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium.
Gouramangi Singh (19th minute) and Sunil Chhetri (77th) scored for India in the regulation time, while Makkon Thierry (29th) and Kingue Mpondo (54th) found the net for Cameroon.
In the tiebreaker, Robin Singh, skipper Chhetri, Denzil Franco and Mehtab Hosain struck to ensure that India managed a clean slate.
Taking the final shot, Makkon hit the post to leave Cameroon shattered, and the Indians jubilant. Ashu C Tambe, Ousmalia, Bebey Kingue Paul and Mpondo scored for the visitors in the shootout.
History repeated itself as the two-time champions, like in the last edition in 2009, defended the crown in shootout.
Earlier India opened the match on the offensive, Sunil Chhetri hitting his right-footer straight to goalkeeper Ngome Lawrence.
India'a urgency prompted coach Koevermans to leave his chair in the dugout and shout instructions to his wards from the sidelines.
The Dutchman's words seemed to have motivated the Indians enough as Gouramangi Singh headed in a Clifford Miranda free-kick from the right in the 19th minute, beating what seemed like an offisde trap, which left the vociferous Sunday turnout jubilant.
It was Chhetri who had earned the free-kick after being felled by Moundi D Gustave. Nabi too was inside the box but it was Gouramangi who tasted success.
Minutes before that Chhetri's header off Sanju Pradhan's delivery went wide.
The Africans were left not far behind as Merime unleashed one that however missed the target by some distance. Cameroon suffered a minor blow when their regular goalkeeper had to leave the post due to an injury, handing over the duty to his deputy Nkessi Hosea.
That he did not concede for the next hour or so, was proof that Hosea did what was expected of him.
In search of an equaliser, Cameroon upped the tempo, and they were rewarded when Makkons crisp volley off Abouna Jean Patrick's cross that deflected off Pradhan's head, found the back of the net after beating an outstretched Subrata Paul to his right on the 29th minute.
The in-form combination of Makkon and Kologny Merime were always expected to pose problems to the Indians and they did exactly that, rattling the hosts with their darting runs and enterprise upfront.
They came close to scoring towards the end of first half as centre-forward Merime latched on to Makkons cross from the right but an alert Indian defence was equal to the task. Just after that Paul effected a brilliant save to once again deny the visitors.
After an intense first half, the hosts were on the game straightaway, but Cameroons back-four this time did not allow Gouramangi a free header on their goal.
It was, however, heartbreak for India when Mpondo, as he had done many times in the previous games, unleashed a header that was all about power. A goal was written all over it once Mpondo connected Thierrys corner in the 54th minute.
The Indians were disappointed, the fans shocked. Lacking support in Koevermans 4-4-1-1, Chhetri failed to turn the chances into a goal until he earned a penalty after being tripped by substitute goalkeeper Hosea.
The Portugal-returned striker converted without any trouble, leaving the crowd in state of frenzy.
India were in an ideal position to put the match beyond reach after the hosts second goal, but Chhetri and Robin Singh contrived to miss the target. While Chhetris free header went wide, Singh hit straight into a defender.
In Koevermans preferred formation Chhetri led the line followed by Francisco Fernandes, Clifford Miranda, Mehtab Hosain, Lenny Rodrigues and Pradhan sought to support the men upfront while Syed Rahim Nabi, Gouramangi, Raju Gaikwad and Nirmal Chhetri attempted to defence.
The 52-year-old Dutchman, however, had to rejig his formation a bit, adding Robin Singh to partner Chhetri in place of Sanju Pradhan. The move worked as India got a lifeline after that.