| India’s Abhishek Yadav (jersey No. 9) jubilates with his teammates after the team’s third goal against Turkmenistan in Busan on Monday. (AP/PTI)
Busan: Bhaichung Bhutia’s English lessons are coming in extremely handy against Asian rivals.
The Indian captain netted a brace for the second game running and played a role in the third as well to help his team script a memorable 3-1 win over Turkmenistan Monday evening.
Two wins to the good after two games, India’s quarter-final hopes from Asian Games group C are very much alive.
A draw against group favourites China in their final tie Thursday should seal a berth in the last eight.
Even a defeat could carry them to the next phase, provided the numbers work out in their favour after the completion of all group-stage activity.
But let us not at this hour think of the future. Dwelling on the present is the order of the day — a day which added flesh to the theory, that Stephen Constantine’s magic wand is working wonders with Indian football which was exploring new lows when he took charge three months ago.
How else do you explain India recovering from a 0-1 first-half deficit to eke out a 3-1 verdict against such tough and sturdy rivals' How else can you explain India gunning down two teams convincingly on alien soil'
The new-found self-belief was very much evident at the Yangsan Public Stadium. Down by a 22nd-minute goal and coming off a pedestrian opening half, the Indians were a transformed lot after change of ends.
With Satish Bharti coming in for the suspended Dipak Mondal, the rear-line took time to adjust to the new set-up. Debjit Ghosh and Mahesh Gawli found it difficult to strike the right understanding in the absence of their regular mate. Rennedy Singh’s 11th-minute injury, that forced him to leave the field with a suspected hamstring pull, added to India’s woes.
Turkmenistan ruled the midfield without ever looking like blasting past their opponents. The goal they got wasn’t too convincing. A corner floated in by Urazov Didarklych, their most dangerous player, was headed into the net by Bayramov Vladimir even as goalkeeper Rajat Ghosh Dastidar claimed an illegal charge on him.
Abhishek Yadav and Jo Paul Ancheri came close to the equaliser moments before the half-time whistle, but it was not to be.
All that changed after Constantine’s vocal tonic in the dressing room. Banished to the galleries for allegedly hurling expletives on the referee at the end of the game versus Bangladesh, the chief coach gave his boys quite a mouthful at half time.
The defence looked more organised with Debjit swapping places with Bharti as sweeper. The goals came in a rush.
In the 55th minute, Samir Naik’s long throw beat the goalie’s fingertips, evaded Debjit and Ancheri who clashed with each other, and was about to land when Bhaichung stretched out his right foot and acrobatically thumped it into the net.
Two minutes later, Yadav hit the bull’s eye. Bhaichung drew the goalie wide to his right and switched the ball to the left for Bijen Singh to lob it into the striking zone. A lurking Yadav fooled Bagdasa Ryanars and stabbed the ball past Harchik Pavel.
Bhaichung’s second was another dream striker’s goal. Getting a ricochet off a Gawli shot, the Sikkim Dynamite turned in a split second, took Bagdasa in stride and placed the ball past a bemused ’keeper.
A stunned Turkmenistan did have a couple of good counters in the closing minutes, but Debjit & Co. defended competently to seal a golden moment.
India: Rajat Ghosh Dastidar; Satish Bharti, Debjit Ghosh, Mahesh Gawli; S. Venkatesh, Rennedy Singh (K. Ajayan, 11), Samir Naik, Bijen Singh (Tomba Singh, 75), Jo Paul Anchery (Monitombi Singh, 80); Bhaichung Bhutia, Abhishek Yadav.
Turkmenistan:Harchik Pavel; Bagdasa Ryanars, Kerimov Rasim, Meredov Bairam, Bayramov Nazar; Haydarov Alik, Nasarov Artem, Bayramov Vladimir (Durduev Shohrat, 84), Urazov Didarklych; Okekov Guvanch (Borovik Boris, 65), Mirzoev Arif (Annamyradov Yagmyr, 63).
Referee: Kunsuta Chaiwat (Thailand).