New national team coach Savio Medeira would be a relieved man after India held Malaysia to a 1-1 draw in his opening campaign at the Indira Gandhi Stadium on Sunday.
Syed Rahim Nabi played the hero’s role with his 87th minute effort that cancelled Safiq Rahim’s first-half goal, which had given the Harimau the lead going into the second half.
Medeira handed Salgaocar’s Jaspal Parmar his international debut and the right-back performed admirably alongside veteran defenders Gouramangi Singh, skipper Mahesh Gawli and Nabi.Playing a 4-4-2, India dominated the first 25 minutes as the visitors attempted to settle down in the midst of an onslaught speared by Sunil Chhetri in front and right-midfielder Steven Dias.
Chhetri could have given India the lead in the 9th minute but he headed Dias’s low cross over the horizontal. Five minutes later, striker Joaquim Abranches failed to convert after Chhetri’s precise through-ball found him unmarked at the edge of the box.
Chhetri went on a beautiful solo run in the 17th minute, dribbling past Safiq and Aidil Razak, but his shot was wide.
One could sense the tide turning around the half-hour mark as Malaysia began stringing quick passes and used the flanks.
It was Subramaniam’s 42nd-minute pass into the penalty area that prompted Gouramangi to commit to a poor slide tackle where he missed the ball completely, allowing Safiq to place past hapless custodian Karanjit Singh.
After the breather, Malaysia looked more comfortable as the hosts exuded an air of urgency.
Despite making incursions into the attacking third repeatedly and holding possession well, India failed to finish their chances.
The breakthrough was finally realised in the dying stages with Jeje Lalpekhlua’s 86th-minute volley from a throw-in that was just about parried away by keeper Farizal Marlias. Pereira's corner picked out Nabi who beat Mohammad Azmi in the air to head in the equaliser and allowed the 20,000-plus audience to walk away with a pleasant memorable first international match experience in the north-east.