India lifted the Intercontinental Cup as it tamed a young Lebanon side by two second-half goals at the Kalinga Stadium here on Sunday.
Having held to a goalless draw by Lebanon in the last league outing of the tournament, India doubled its bid to find the break as Lebanon dug its heels in defence. Finishing woes continued to bother India in the unproductive opening session which saw the host making a few openings but failing to convert.
India made a powerful shout for a penalty in the sixth minute when Ashique Kuruniyan went down inside the Lebanon box after being tripped by the opposition defender Hussain Zain. The referee disregarded the call as India renewed its search for the goal without much avail.
Sahal Abdul Samad weaved past a couple of Lebanon defenders in the 16th minute before making a square pass to Chhetri. But before the Indian captain could reach the ball, the Lebanon defence intercepted. The change of ends altered India’s fortune and the host found the lead in the very first minute when Chhetri found his 87th international goal thanks to a nice coordination on the right flank between Nikhil Poojary and Chhangte. The goal charged up the Indian camp as it went in search of more to seal the victory.
The host did find the insurance goal after head coach Igor Stimac introduced a couple of substitutions to spruce up the attack.
India doubled its lead in the 66th minute when substitute Naoram Mahesh Singh was released by Chhetri on the left. The winger fired a rasping left-footer which was blocked by Lebanese goalkeeper Ali Sabeh. Chhangte was lurking close by to score from the rebound. This was enough to secure India’s win as Lebanon was effectively restricted by a disciplined performance by the Indian defence – Sandesh Jhingan and Anwar Ali in the centre. And Nikhil Poojary and Akash Mishra on the flanks.
The win also broke a long-standing jinx for India which collected its second win against Lebanon after a break of 46 years. India had won the first meeting in 1977 as the next six meetings saw three draws and three losses for the host. The triumph completed India’s camp at Bhubaneswar. The focus now moves to Bengaluru where India will be starting its next campaign on June 21 to defend its SAFF Championship crown.
The result: India 2 (Chhetri 46, Chhangte 66) bt Lebanon 0..
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