A header from skipper Sunil Chhetri and a sublime strike by Anthony Pereira gave India a 2-1 win over Syria in the Nehru Cup opener in New Delhi at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Wednesday.
Chettri gave India the lead in added time of the first half. In-form Clifford Miranda proved instrumental when his precise cross from the left found the Lisbon ‘B’ striker completely free.
Perriera, who substituted Sanju Pradhan in the second half, curled the ball from outside the box in the 84th minute, giving the Syrian custodian no chance.
Syria scored a consolation goal in the 89th minute which proved a little too late. Ouday Abduljaffal's free-kick saw Alaa Alshbbli head the ball home from six yards out, which left India's custodian Subrata Paul with no chance to save.
India coach Wim Koeverman’s idea of ‘total football’ failed to appear as intermittent rain and poor conditions didn’t allow the passing game to flourish. The rain made the game much slower with both teams failing to hold on to the ball and relying heavily on long ball tactics.
Despite the win, the Dutch coach will have his hands full. India looked far from convincing with a shaky defence.
The hosts also had a few pluses. Francisco Fernandes had a solid match, linking up well with the lanky Lenny Singh.
India started the game on a positive note, with Chhetri getting the first shot off in the 10th minute. The Portugal-return forward took the ball with his back to the goal, and unleashed a snap shot which went just wide.
Soon after, Syria’s Mehdazahir Almedani shot from 30 yards out but it was well wide of the goal.
India had a decent spell in the middle of the first half but failed to capitalise with poor delivery in the final third of the pitch.
Miranda with his trickery was a constant thorn down the left side.
Mardik Mardikian received the first caution of the game, booked for simulation. He, though, had Syria’s best chance but wasted his shot from six yards out after he got in between India’s two centre-backs, Rajju Gaikwad and Gouramangi Moirangthem.
Skies opened up in the 26th minute and in the 33rd minute, torrential downpour stopped play for 15 minutes.
Play resumed with Syrian forwards belting down the pitch but Subrata was up to his task. He made a smart save from Ali Ghalioum’s shot from 20 yards out.
The Indian defence looked very shaky, regularly being caught out by long balls.
The first half ended with a goalmouth scramble, however India managed to avert the danger. The second half was lacklustre, with both teams failing to produce any clear-cut chances.
However, with time running out Syria had to score their much needed goal but reckless play opened India's chances of counter-attacks.