| M. Suresh scored the second goal
|Vijayan kept Constantine's faith by striking first
Hyderabad: Indian football will lose one of its greatest talents when I.M. Vijayan decides to quit the international scene after the Afro-Asian Games. But there is someone who is ready to fill in his big boots — Ashim Biswas.
Ashim has idolised himself on the great Vijayan. And it’s quite fitting that the 21-year rounded off the tally coming in place of Vijayan after the veteran opened scoring against Rwanda in the Afro-Asian Games opener on Wednesday.
India won 3-1 with M. Suresh scoring the second goal. Balinda Aziz reduced the margin for Rwanda.
Playing on a slushy surface, Indians capitalised on the absence of eight star players in the Rwandan team which has qualified for the 2004 African Nations Cup.
The Rwandans, mostly comprising under-20 players drawn from local clubs, did create a number of openings, but their finishing left a lot to be desired.
Earlier, it was a huge relief for the organisers as the sun shone for the first time in two days and the ground was declared fit for play just hours before the start.
Vijayan fulfilled the confidence coach Stephen Constantine has in him when he found the target in the 12th minute following a measured Tomba Singh cross from the right.
India skipper Bhaichung Bhutia did not get too many opportunities as the Rwandans marked him well. But Tomba and Rennedy Singh playing on either flanks did a wonderful job.
The defence, in the absence of the dependable Dipak Mondal (out with a knee injury) was led by Satish Bharti, who came up with a good show. However, goalkeeper Sangram Mukerjee’s performance wasn’t upto the mark, as he fumbled with the ball a couple of times.
In fact, the Rwandans came close to scoring from one such fumble, but the shot was deflected off the goalline by Bharti.
India made it 2-0 in the 54th minute when Suresh headed in following an inswinging corner by Tomba.
As expected, India did not start with Jo Paul Ancheri, but he was brought in place of S. Venkatesh after Rwanda pulled one back in the 61st minute.
The third goal by Ashim in the 79th minute was a real gem. He outpaced a Rwandan defender following a counter attack and beat the rival ’keeper on the first post with a superb first-time strike.
Coach Stephen Constantine described the win as “a good start but we shouldn’t be carried away”.
Both Constantine and his Rwandan counterpart Dujkovic Ratomir said after the match that the conditions were bot fit for quality soccer.
Ghana pull out
Ghana pulled out of the tournament on Wednesday without citing any reasons.
Ghana were scheduled to meet Malaysia on Thursday, but the fixtures now will have to be redrawn.