India qualified for the pre-quarters of the under-23 football tournament of the Asian Games with a stunning 4-1 win over Singapore in their last group match on Thursday.
Jewel Raja opened the account for India in the 13th minute while Balwant Singh doubled it in the 62nd minute. Jibon Singh added a third in the 67th minute and Maithani Manish scored the fourth in the 75th minute. Substitute Eugene Luo scored the consolation goal for Singapore in the 83rd minute.
India finished third in the group but qualified for the pre-quarterfinal as the top-four best third finishers from the six groups qualify for the knock-out stage alonh with two top teams from all the groups.
Singapore were clearly undone in the 13th minute when a poor defensive wall set up by goalkeeper Siddiq Durimi allowed Raja to score with a curling free-kick. Singapore came close to equalising, but Shahril Ishak failed to shoot despite having ball possession inside the six-yard box.
Singapore captain Hariss Harun was forced to play in the defense as his team was depleted by yellow cards.
Singapore were dealt a psychological blow when Harun limped off with an injury at half-time and then in the second half, goalkeeper Siddiq made a howler that gifted India their second goal.
A backpedalling Siddiq was spotted outside his box by Balwant Singh and the striker hit the back of the net from almost the half-way line to make it 2-0.
Singapore left gaps in their defence and India exploited it to the full. A flowing Indian move saw Jibon Singh move into the box and he scored the third goal through the legs of the goalkeeper in the 66th minute.
In the 74th minute, Singapore defender Afiq Yunos missed a clearing header completely in the penalty box and Manish thundered home a shot to give India a 4-0 lead.
Luo scored Singapore's only goal in the 82nd minute when the Indian goalkeeper spilled a Shahdan Sulaiman free kick.
India coach Sukhwinder Singh was elated with the win and said that he will take one match at a time.
"It was a tough match, but my boys played well. Conditions were tough as we were playing our third match in five days with the same bunch of players," Sukhwinder told IANS.
Asked if India took the field with any plan, Sukhwinder said: "We were only thinking of winning the match by a good margin. We were confident that if we play with the same enthusiasm that we displayed against defending champions Qatar we can win this match."
"Today my boys gave their best and all the goals were spectacular. Now we will get some rest before gearing up for the next stage."
India lost to Kuwait 0-2 in their opening match and in the second game went down 1-2 to defending champions Qatar despite leading the match till the 80th minute.