Jeje Lalpekhlua’s 85th minute strike helped the India U-23 team start the SAFF Cup with a win. Under lights at the Bangbandhu National Stadium in Dhaka, Lalpekhlua, who represented India in the Asian U-19 qualifiers this year and plays for Pune FC, did well to bury the ball into the far corner after cutting in from the right.
“This was our first match as a team. Even during training in Goa, we didn’t really play any games. That’s why the first half wasn’t good but our showing in the second half gives me hope that we will play better in the next match (against Nepal on Monday),” coach Sukhwinder Singh said.
Getting Lalpekhlua for Balwant Singh (73rd minute) and supplanting midfielder Jagpreet Singh with Manish Mahtani significantly contributed to the improvement in the second half.
Traffic wasn’t entirely one-way though India had more chances with skipper Sushil Singh missing once in each half. Goalie Arindam Bhattacharya did well to keep out Hasmatulla’s 59th minute try.
Earlier, Nepal held defending champions the Maldives 1-1.