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Win not enough for India

Margao, April 19 (PTI): Substitute Ishfaq Ahmedís second- half goal helped India beat Turkmenistan 1-0 at the Nehru Stadium Saturday, but the margin of the win was not enough for the hosts to qualify for the next round of the pre-Olympic (under-23) football qualifiers.

India, who needed a 3-0 victory margin to make the next round, dominated the game but were let down by their strikers, who failed to capitalise on the chances that came their way.

That means another early exit for Stephen Constantineís India. Since the triumph of the LG Cup in Vietnam, the spate of following losses continues to reduce the win at the six-nation meet to a mere flash in the pan. India failed to make it to the quarter finals of the Busan Asian Games. This was followed by the first-round departure from the Asian Cup qualifiers (against North Korea). And again, it was the same sad story on Saturday.

Ashim Biswas fed Ishfaq inside the box from the right and the substitute was bang on target with his powerful left-footer.

Much in anticipation, as an away match requires one to do, Turkmenistan played a defensive game and never allowed the rival strikers any space to operate. The central Asian nation, however, had the first scoring chance midway into the first-half but Krendelev Vyacheslav was late in connecting a cross from Zemskov Yewgenty.

Turkmenistan now meet Malaysia in the next round.

Tomba Singh, who played a vital role in midfield alongwith Jatin Bist and Dipankar Roy, tried to probe the attacking third with aerial passes. But the tall Turkmenistan defenders made good use of their height to neutralise such moves. Alex Ambrose and Ashim, thus, looked ineffective in making forays.

India, who had the better share of exchanges in the first-half, had two scoring opportunities before the lemon break but Ambrose and later Dipankar failed to score from close.

After the change of ends, Ambrose again had a chance to put his team ahead, but his try missed the target narrowly off a Dipankarís free-kick.

Turkmenistan, who made occasional raids, had a good chance to spoil the Indian show when Vyacheslav sent a through pass to Ovekov who eluded two rival defenders and took a shot at the goal which went out.

Constantine replaced Ambrose with Ishfaq and Indiaís attacks looked more sharp. Ishfaq tormented the rival defence with his swift runs and tested goalkeeper Matus Pavel several times.

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