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2008 Azlan Shah Cup
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Heart warming performance but... (5/12/2008)
--K.Arumugam
Day Four in Ipoh marked high scoring matches. The tune of which was set by India. In a heart-warming performance, India came ailve in the first half, and saved so much in the scoreboard that even giving away three goals in the second half did not matter insofar as end result was concerned.

India moved like a goal billionaire on Monday. From Shivender to Sandeep Singh, and youngster Diwakar Ram, everyone chipped in. Not to speak of SV Sunil, whose opportunism and selfless parting of ball inside the circle did wonders for India. Sunil's hand was there in three of India's six goals, but the solo he scored, India's fourth goal, should take his confidence to Himalayan heights.

It is very difficult to single out any individual for the timely victory -- the entire team deserved some kudos.

But the no nonsense coach Bansal is not a happy man.

He is worried, concerned and even bit bothered the team almost gave away the match in the second half.

He was not off the mark. Indian attackline could not spread the Belgians who were hell bent on scoring as much as India scored, if not more. But for a few misses and a couple of goaline saves, one from Innoncent Kullu was worth mentioning, and the brilliant form of Adrian D'Souza under bar, India had nearly lost the match.

Is it first time such things -- conceding too many goals -- happened? No, the same Belgium drew a test match in Chennai 4-4 after India established a 4-1 lead. Again at Boom in the Champions Challenge Cup, India scored four goals inside first 15 minutes only to win the bronze very narrowly -- and the score was 5-4!!

But the boys here are, well, preparing for the Junior Asia Cup. They are learning their lesson. If Bansal's worry was on seniors for what he considers the 'horrible win', he is correct to some extent. In such situations, they are supposed to hold the game, set example for precise finish and instil confidence in the youngsters. That was not there.

Coming back to India's first half, it must be said that the Indians rattled the Belgians. Their coach Adam Commens agreed almost to this when he said that in his assignment as Belgium coach, this lead was perhaps the worst.

That situation was made possible because India did not waste opportunities in the first half, except one by Sarwanjit Singh, who to me appears a misfit. In a left flank attack, even as goalkeeper had charged too early leaving the cage at his mercy, he scooped the ball shot of the cage, and on bounce the ball went wide. A hard push or a mild flick could have given India a goal when it was struggling in the first quarter.

India did really struggle despite taking an early lead in the 8th minute. Because, Indian wingers were not effective. Belgian right wing was extremely alert, sharp and purposeful. Vickram Kanth, playing at lefthalf --as regular left half Ranjeet was injured and rested for the match -- did provide some solid defence. Whether India will now build up the momentum and go up is what remains to be seen.

cheers Arumugam

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