Confident India eye win

Confident India eye win

Houghtons men take on Pak with final spot in sight

Bob Houghton’s charges, an experimental side with a mixture of senior players and youngsters, completely outplayed Chinese Taipei in the Group B opening match of AFC Challenge Cup qualifying round at the MBPJ Stadium on Monday.

They need just a win to qualify for the final round which will be held next year. The two top sides from the four-team group will qualify for the final round.

India, the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup winners, which gave them the chance to play in the Asian Cup in Qatar in January, will start as clear favourites against neighbours Pakistan who have ent don 0-3 to 2010 AFC Challenge Cup runners-up Turkmenistan.

India had beaten Pakistan 2-1 in their last meeting in Male, Maldives in the 2008 SAFF Cup.

Houghton tried seven new faces, six of them making their senior international debut, including I-League side Indian Arrows players Raju Gaikwad, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Jewel Raja and Shilton D’Silva, and he is expected to use a few others against Pakistan.

Viva Kerala striker CS Sabeeth, who scored a crucial goal against Myanmar in the Olympic qualifiers first round last month, is expected to make his senior debut in Wednesday’s match.

Midfielder Baldip Singh, who had played a few games for the senior side including international friendlies last year in the build-up to the Asian Cup, suffered an injury while training and is unlikely to play.

Jagpreet Singh and Rakesh Masih, who did well in the central midfield against Chinese Taipei are expected to retain their places. Houghton said his side would look to get full points so that he can field more new faces in the last match against Turkmenistan on Friday.

“Obviously we need to win the second game against Pakistan tomorrow. We will be guaranteed a place in the finals of the Championship that obviously is most important. Bottomline is to win this,” he said after the team training.

“If we win tomorrow, we will not have pressure in third game and we can play some of the younger players,” he added.

Striker Sunil Chhetri, who scored a goal in his first match as captain against Taipei, asked his team-mates not to lower their guard against Pakistan.

“Pakistan match is an important one for us. It is important for us to win. It is not easy to play three matches in five days. But we should go out there tomorrow looking for three points,”he said.