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Bhutia scores one in 100th

42nd minute, 42nd goal and 100th international match — from Sunday onwards, the Ambedkar Stadium will never forget to associate these three numbers with Bhaichung Bhutia, reports Abhishek Hore.

sports Updated: Aug 23, 2009 22:28 IST
Abhishek Hore

42nd minute, 42nd goal and 100th international match — from Sunday onwards, the Ambedkar Stadium will never forget to associate these three numbers with Bhaichung Bhutia.

Sunil Chhetri's scoring spree at the Ambedkar continued, but it was actually Bhutia, who might have kick-started India's campaign in the 14th ONGC Nehru Cup.

Appearing in his 100th international, the Sikkimese sniper's 42nd goal, in the 42nd minute of the match against Kyrgyzstan, may not have been his best, but it could certainly turn out to be his most important goal in the context of India's chances in the tournament.

Incidentally, Bhutia scored in his first start 14 years ago in a Nehru Cup match against Uzbekistan.

The 2-1 verdict in favour of India meant Bob Houghton's boys are alive in the five-nation meet.

Bhutia was on the lookout for goals from the word go till he was substituted on the 82nd minute but that he eventually scored had a lot to do with Subrata Pal.

Bhutia trapped the long ball from the India custodian and his attempted left-footer ricocheted off the second post before making its way into the goal, hitting the first post on its way.

Before and after Bhutia's strike, Pal hogged the limelight with two brilliant saves, one in the beginning when he thwarted Harchenko Vadim's shot with his left hand and then foiled Mirzaliev Almazbek's attempt to reduce the margin from the spot. Almazbek was awarded a penalty after being fouled by Mahesh Gawli.

Chhetri added another after the change of ends when he converted from the post, but it was Bhutia who earned India the spotkick after he was felled by the Kyrgyzstan goalkeeper Matiash Pavel.

This was Chhetri's fourth international goal in two appearances at the Ambedkar, the last three coming during the title clash of the AFC Challenge Cup last year.

Under pressure after the loss to Lebanon, Houghton's boys dished out a much-improved show. Chhetri, who hasn't played the full 90 minutes for quite a while now, did so on Sunday and looked hungry for goals.

The defence had an altered look, with the inclusion of Gawli and Deepak Mondal, and both did a decent job. Renedy Singh, who replaced Anthony Pereira halfway through the second half, showed urgency and the experienced campaigner that he is was evident from the moment he stepped on to the filed.

The duo of and Almazbek and especially, Zemlianuhin Anton, did create chances but a solid defence, coupled with a little bit of luck frustrated the visitors. Murzaev Mirlan scored at the death but his strike couldn't save his team from conceding three crucial points to the hosts.

Dreams turning into reality: Bhutia

Bhaichung Bhutia has turned most of his dreams into reality during his 14-year spell in top-flight football. On Sunday he realised one more.

Playing in his 100th international match, he scored his 42nd goal in India's 2-1 win over Kyrgyzstan in an ONGC Nehru Cup match in front of an almost packed Ambedkar Stadium.

"It's a great moment, scoring in my 100th international match and at the same time the team winning," Bhutia said. "I dedicate this to all those who supported me during my career."

While all eyes were trained on Bhutia, the India skipper did not forget to praise the efforts of goalkeeper Subrata Pal, who made two crucial saves. "Don't forget his efforts. Those saves rejuvenated us to play better," the skipper said.

On the tournament, Bhuta said: "It is wide open but we have a chance to reach the final provided we win all our remaining games. It is not going to be easy for Asian teams to beat us now. We have learnt to play under pressure."