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Deferred tie gives Anwar Ali more time

Neither national coach Bob Houghton nor his central defender Anwar Ali would perhaps mind the heavy downpour that threw New Delhi — hosting the ONGC 14th Nehru Cup football tournament — out of gear on Friday, reports Abhishek Hore.

sports Updated: Aug 22, 2009 01:22 IST
Abhishek Hore

Neither national coach Bob Houghton nor his central defender Anwar Ali would perhaps mind the heavy downpour that threw New Delhi — hosting the ONGC 14th Nehru Cup football tournament — out of gear on Friday.

The torrential rain forced organisers to reschedule fixtures — for the second time in this tournament — but it has given Anwar an extra day to recover from injury, ahead of India's next match against Kyrgyzstan now on Sunday.

“Anwar is out for tomorrow's match but if there is a rescheduling due to rain then he might just recover in time,” said Houghton, barely an hour before the match commissioner decided to call off Friday’s match between Lebanon and Sri Lanka.

The rescheduling means all matches have been deferred by one day and that the two-day gap between the last round robin tie and the final on August 31 will now be halved.

Anwar is a vital cog as far as India's defence is concerned and looked impressive in the hosts' 0-1 loss to Lebanon in the opener. The Briton also confirmed Sunil Chhetri's availability against Kyrgyzstan. “Chhetri will start in the next match,” he said. India missed the Dempo striker in the first match and though his replacement Sushil Kumar tried his best to fill the void, the hosts lacked a genuine goal-poacher. “Sushil has been great but Chhetri's inclusion and his partnership with Bhaichung (Bhutia) upfront will obviously give us a big boost,” Houghton said.

The defeat in the opening match means India, according to Houghton, “have a daunting task ahead and will need to win the rest of our matches”.

The loss notwithstanding, Houghton was happy with India's performance. “We lost but we played pretty well. We saw the video footage of the last match and we felt we dominated. There were 10 shots to 3 in India's favour and we took more corners too (India took 6 corners to Lebanon's 2).

“Moreover, it's not just about one match. It's a long term process one defeat doesn't affect our set-up,” he said.