Unimpressive India bow to Syria in inconsequential clash

Having already qualified for Monday’s final against the same opponents, India rested Bhutia, who had received a yellow card in the tournament opener against Lebanon. His strike partner Sunil Chhetri was also only brought in the last ten minutes of the game as India started without four first XI players.

For Syria, who also started without four of their main players, including star striker Mohammad Al Zeno. Defender Ali Dyab scored the all-important goal in the 19th minute in the match seen as the rehearsal for Monday’s summit clash. India ended their league engagements with two wins and two losses while Syria maintained their clean slate with four wins from in as many matches.

In the last edition in 2007, India had lost their round-robin match against the same opponents before eventually beating them 1-0 in the final. The home team, led by Renedy Singh, failed to build up well coordinated moves with lots of mis-passes and the midfield of Climax Lawrence and Mehrajuddin Wadoo lacking imagination.

India’s defensive blues in the tournament continued as Syrian defender Ali Dyab was given a free header into the net in the 19th minute for the visitors to take a 1-0 lead to the dismay of of a near capacity crowd. Indian goalkeeper Subrata Paul had no clue how the header had come in off a freekick from outside the left of the India box taken by Moutaz Kaildni. India escaped from conceding another goal in the 30th minute with goalkeeper Paul making a fine save.

Central defender Gouramangi Singh made a blunder by gifting the ball to Syria captain Raja Rafe while trying to clear. Raje sidestepped Gouramangi inside the box but his rasping left footer was tipped over the bar in time by Paul.

The best chance for India to get an equaliser came in the 39th minute but Wadoo, who was starting for the first time, in the tournament headed over with only the goalkeeper to beat off a pin-point pass from right winger Syed Rahim Nabi.

Coach Bob Houghton brought in Pradeep after the breather in place of Climax Lawrence to infuse some sting into the Indian attack. India put a little pressure on the Syrians after that, but they failed to have a clear look at the opposition goal.

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