India U-23 march into SAG football final

Guwahati, Feb 13 (IANS) The Indian Under-23 team registered a comprehensive 3-0 triumph over Bangladesh to breeze into the final of the men’s football championship at the ongoing South Asian Games (SAG) here on Saturday.

Udanta Singh put the hosts into the lead in the 22nd minute. Mawihmingthanga (45th minute) then followed it up with a “fantastic” strike from outside the box five minutes before the interval. After the restart, it was Jayesh Rane (65th) who scored the third goal for India.

The second-half also saw Bangladesh coach Gonzalo Moreno being sent to the stands.

“We were more organised in defence and midfield and though Bangladesh had more possession they were not able to penetrate,” India head coach Lee Johnson said.

For the first goal it was Jerry who pressed Razaul Karim inside the 18-yard box forcing a bit of indecision on part of the latter. Udanta, who was complementing Jerry, took advantage, side-stepped Topu Barman and pushed the ball into the net.

Jerry, 18, once again got into the thick of things and unleashed a screamer from outside the box which dug deep into the right bottom corner. A stunning goal that is bound to be remembered for long.

“It was so encouraging to have two U-18s and a U-19 player on the field in the second half. Jerry’s goal was fantastic. But he still has a long way to go,” Johnson stated, referring to Zuala, Jerry and Vinit Rai.

The India coach added he could have fielded other players but then opted to play the young guns to test them at a big stage.

“There were players whom we could have selected who were available but we preferred to give these boys a chance. It’s a big achievement and good for the development of football in India,” said Johnson.

“The scouting network set up by the AIFF (All India Football Federation) is allowing us to get new boys and without giving a chance to players you don’t get to know their potential.”

Jayesh put it beyond the reach of the rivals in the 65th minute, thumping one in from inside the box.

The final is slated for February 15.

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