With most of the regulars, skipper Bhaichung Bhutia included, in the dugout, India lost their last round-robin match of the ONGC 14th Nehru Cup at the Ambedkar Stadium in New Delhi on Sunday. Both teams will play Monday’s final.
Ali Dyab’s header fetched the Syrians full points for the fourth time in a row when he headed home Moutaz Kaildni’s free-kick from the left.
Like in their first match against Lebanon, India paid for conceding a free-kick near the 18-yard box following an infringement by Deepak Mondal.
And like against Sri Lanka, central defender Anwar missed the clearance, giving Dyab a virtual free header.
Subrata Pal could do nothing then but had it not been for the goalkeeper, India might have lost by an even bigger margin. Soon after the goal, he kept out Raja Rafe’s attempt.
In Bhutia and Sunil Chhetri’s absence, India lacked firepower upfront as Abhishek Yadav and Sushil Kumar could hardly test the Syrian defence.
Mehrajuddin Wadoo had a chance just before the breather but couldn’t direct a free header into goal. N. P. Pradeep, Syed Rahim Nabi and Renedy Singh too tried but weren’t on target.
If this was a dress rehearsal, Houghton will realise what lies ahead. “We are up against a good team and it will be a very tough contest,” the coach said.
AIFF executive meeting
A number of key issues, including the date of interviews of the candidates for the post of general secretary and I-League CEO, will be discussed at the All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) executive committee meeting on Sunday.
Sources in the AIFF, however, revealed that a couple of senior member are likely to request general secretary Alberto Colaco to continue for now.
The AIFF had earlier shortlisted nine candidates for the post of general secretary and five for the post of I-League CEO.
The meeting, which will be chaired by working president Praful Patel, is also likely to discuss Bhaichung Bhutia’s ban by Mohun Bagan.
The progress made by the I-League clubs to be eligible for the AFC Champions League, allotment of various tournaments and preparation of national teams for international tournaments will also be part of the agenda.