Captain Baichung Bhutia struck twice in the second half to hand India a 2-1 victory over Turkmenistan in their last Group A match and ensure a semifinal berth in the AFC Challenge Cup football tournament in Hyderabad on Sunday.
In what may be called as the best match of the tournament so far played under heavy ground conditions at the Gachibowli Stadium, the 32-year-old Indian skipper showed his class to score in the 54th and 80th minute to take the hosts at the top of Group A with seven points from two wins and one draw.
However, Turkmenistan reduced the margin in the 82nd minute through second half substitute Yusup Orazmamedov.
Tajikistan, with five points, is the other team from the group to progress to the last four stage. They thrashed Afghanistan 4-0 in another match played simultaneously at the Lal Bahadur Stadium, while Turkmenistan ended at four points from one win, a draw and a loss.
India will take on the second placed team from Group B in the semifinals on Thursday.
Hosts' English coach Bob Houghton must be a happy man with all his charges coming out with flying colours in the all-important match, though a draw would have been enough for India to book a semifinal berth.
India's back four were spot on and the midfield up to the task with forwards Baichung and Sunil Chhetri creating havoc whenever the hosts raided the rival defence.