Between them, Deepak Mondal and Mahesh Gawli have about 20 years of international football. Don’t blame coach Bob Houghton, therefore, for being keen on using their services in the AFC Challenge Cup.
But Gawli wasn’t fit to start against Afghanistan and now Mondal, blighted by another injury, is likely to miss the remaining two league games. The Mohun Bagan defender limped off in the 81st minute against Afghanistan after injuring his knee, forcing Houghton to rush in Gawli as reinforcement.
India won 1-0 and a win on Friday against defending champions Tajikistan would seal a place in the last-four stage. Houghton confirmed after Thursday’s training session that Mondal would not play against Tajikistan but was non-committal about his availability for the last league game against Turkmenistan.
Mondal has been advised rest for a few days as it was his left knee that kept him out for over seven months since the Nehru Cup last year. The 29-year-old also had his right knee operated in 2005 following a ligament tear.
However, Houghton would be relieved that Gawli played for the last 10 minutes and now he looks good to start on Friday. “I put Mahesh in to just test him and he should start against Turkmenistan. Even Steven (Dias) is fit to play tomorrow’s game,” he said.
It is possible that Dias would come in for Bungo Singh and Baldeep Singh (Jr) replace N.P. Pradeep on Friday.
Easy for Korea, Myanmar
DPR Korea lived up to their favourites’ tag, thrashing Sri Lanka 3-0 in their opening Group B encounter. Their second string team were hardly tested by an ultra-defensive Sri Lankan side.
In the day’s other game, Myanmar’s late surge to beat Nepal 3-0 to join Korea at the top of the group standings. Yaza Win Thein broke the deadlock in the 66th minute when he chested down a cross from Pai Soe, got away from his marker and sent the ball sailing in the net.
Substitute Myo Ming Tun doubled the score with a scorching left-footer from the edge of the box after a solo run in the 76th minute and Soe Myat Min rounded off the tally 10 minutes later.
However, the day belonged to Korean midfielder Pak Song-Chol who first curled in a 20-yard free-kick in the ninth minute and added another three minutes before the half-hour mark.
With Sri Lankan defender Madushka Peiris putting his team on the back foot with a fifth minute own-goal, Pak’s strikes all but the killed the contest before the lemon break.
Gachibowli in the dark
The Gachibowli stadium was left in the dark for a few minutes when electric supply was interrupted during the half-time of the Mayanmar-Nepal tie.