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Samuel's early bite sinks spirited India

sports Updated: Sep 01, 2012 00:10 IST
Kaushik Chatterji
Andrea Pirlo

Perhaps it was the cockiness that comes from being the highest goal-scorer of a tournament, or maybe it was just that he did not think much of a side that, for the better part of the first period, saw less than three-tenths of the ball.

But whatever be the case, Ebanga Bertin is neither Antonin Panenka nor Andrea Pirlo.

After Syed Rahim Nabi's tackle on Eloundou Charles resulted in the referee pointing to the spot, Bertin's chip five minutes from the break was a tad too delicate.

So much so that India's goalie Karanjeet Singh had enough time to dive to the left, stop, block the ball with his right hand and gather the fumbling ball before the Cameroonian forward could tap in the rebound.

Of course, Bertin was not the only one taking this match lightly - in what was hardly a full-dress rehearsal for Sunday's final, Cameroon coach Emmanuel Bosso made nine changes; five of India's regulars were benched by Wim Koevermans, for whom this match was the first real challenge.

Caught off-guard by an early strike - Samuel Bitte finding the net in just the 2nd minute - and hardly gaining possession of the ball, the boys in blue looked to have abandoned the combination play advocated by their Dutch coach in favour of hopeful long balls.

The hosts got their act straight after half-time - particularly impressive were Sanju Pradhan's crosses from the right. Sadly, Nabi missed the target, and Francisco Fernandes headed straight into the goalkeeper's hands.