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India book Japan berth
- Hosts whip Afghanistan 4-0 to put paid to Nepal’s chances

Calcutta: India made their way into the main round of the AFC under-17 championships beating Afghanistan 4-0 in a qualifying round match at Salt Lake Stadium on Friday.

L. Vanchhawng scored a brace while O.T. Lepcha and Tetea Tlau netted one each.

With Nepal beating Afghanistan 2-0 on Wednesday, India had to win 3-0 to ensure their passage into the final XVI to be held in Japan in September. In the first match, India were held 1-1 by Nepal.

The Indians looked a determined lot right from the word go and started firing on all cylinders. The hosts enjoyed complete control over the middle-third and with the lack of blocking, the ball reached the penetrative zone quite easily.

O.T. Lepcha was the protagonist for the Indians in the preparatory zone, feeding the attackers relentlessly. It was from one such Lepcha-orchestrated move that India opened the scoreline in the fifth minute.

Lepcha got the ball near the centre circle and made place for himself with a nice half-turn. Moving a few steps, he released a through ball which found Vanchhawng, who made no mistake to slot it in.

It didn’t need India too much more time to make it 2-0. In the 14th minute, Lepcha got a loose ball and his booming left-footer from about 20 yards away crashed into the net beating the outstretched hands of the goalkeeper.

The hosts tried to seal things off in the first session itself, but a number of missed chances did not help their cause. In the 28th minute, Somnath Mitra set one up for Vanchhawng following a free-kick from the left, but the latter failed to head it in with an open net in front of him. But with time ticking away, there were a few nervous faces in the Indian bench, as Afghanistan clung on to the 0-2 deficit.

In fact, it was the rising tension that led to chances go abegging. The Indians came very close to clinching the issue when Robert Lalthlamuan curled a free-kick from the left, but Tlau’s header struck the cross-piece and came back into play.

After two more misses in a span of 10 minutes, India finally made it 3-0 in the 69th. Ralte played a good through ball for Vanchhawng and the striker promptly placed it past the advancing Yama Yahiazada.

The three-goal cushion seemed to have brought in a bit of complacency in the Indian ranks and the Afghans came back strongly in that period. They raised a few incisive attacks — one of which could have easily taken the tournament to a play-off between India and Nepal on Saturday.

Ali Ahmedi’s booming volley from just outside the box was tipped over brilliantly by Souvik Mondal.

However, the Indians completed the last rites with another strike in the 87th minute. Ralte’s cross from the right found Tlau who headed home past the rival ’keeper. Though the Afghans go back empty handed, they have gained some “vital experience” which will hold them in good stead in the future, felt their chief coach Asghar Ali.

TEAMS

India: Souvik Mondal, Lalthanpuia Hnamte, Chanchal Saha, Poibiang Poshna, Somnath Mitra, Robert Lalthlamuan, Tetea Tlau, O.T. Lepcha, B. Ralte, L. Vanchhawng (Hiroito Elangbam, 69), Lalawmpuia Pachuau (Ashim Das, 64)

Afghanistan: Yama Yahiazada, Suhrab Niazi, Farid Ahmedi, Ali Ahmedi, Zahit Hussaini, Shikib Faizi, Akmal Hussaini, Mohammed Atal Y., Ali Noori (Ghulam Murtaza Ali, 65), Ali Jawad Rezaki (Feriz Ahmed Azizi, 71), Z.R. Hashmatullah (Mohammed Omar, 75).

Referee Roman Dmitri (Uzbekistan)

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