Anthony Pereira curled in a magnificent free-kick and India got a much-needed victory on Wednesday at the Ambedkar Stadium, albeit against a Namibia side that rested largely on the experience of captain Quinton Jacobs to put up a fight.
Despite the 2-0 win, India's performance did little to befit much acclaim barring another exhilarating display by goalkeeper Subrata Pal. Pal kept the side in the game against a team, which constantly threatened in the final third through wide right midfielder Heinrich Isaacks but lacked finishing.
Isaacks capitalised on the minimal marking by Clifford Miranda, who played too deep and that only increased the pressure on left-back Mahesh Gawli. Down by a brace, Namibia also attacked through the middle where Renedy Singh, returning from a hamstring injury, didn't make much of an impact as a central midfielder after coming on late in the second half.
Right-back Surkumar Singh though had a good game surging up whenever he could and firing long-balls for strikers Sunil Chhetri and Abhishek Yadav.
The India defence was made to work by forward Roger Katjijeo, Isaacks and Jacobs and were often beaten for pace. Namibia also used the width of the pitch better and were swift on the break. After Pal made a stellar save, India broke the deadlock in the 26th minute when Mehrajuddin Wadoo's long-ranger completely changed direction after hitting Richard Gariseb.
Yadav had an opportunity to score in the 34th minute but was slow to react to a sublime through-ball from Chhetri.
Even in the second half, Namibia attacked mostly through the left with Isaacks troubling the back four. But against the run of play, India got the insurance goal. Yadav was fouled by a belligerent Gariseb and despite protests from the visitors - the tall striker had his back to the defender and collapsed rather cheaply to win the free-kick- Pereira stepped up to swerve the ball past Mbaha from 25 yards in the 54th minute. Namibia kept attacking in numbers but the Indian back four and Pal had other ideas.
Bhaichung Bhutia came on in the 65th minute to replace Yadav to raucous cheers but limped out with a right knee injury deep in second-half stoppage time after being booked in the 84th minute.