Sunil Chhetri Scores As India Win Last Tour Match In Spain

7 August 2009 - Sunil Chhetri made his first start of the Barcelona tour, as Bob Houghton made just one change to the eleven that started in all of the previous three games, with young Sushil Kumar Singh missing out.

India won a penalty in their first meaningful attack of the match when skipper Bhaichung Bhutia was brought down inside the box. Sunil Chhetri stepped up and coolly converted the spot kick to give his side the lead.

Santboia nearly equalised immediately but India survived thanks to some last-ditch defending. A few minutes later, midfielder Anthony Pereira was clean through on goal, but the Dempo player couldn’t find the target.In-form goalkeeper Subrata Pal was called into action many times in the final stages of the first half, and the Pune FC custodian responded with some fine saves to make sure that India went into the half-time break with that one goal lead.

The early periods of the first half didn’t produce too much goalmouth action and coach Hougton soon decided to change things around by bringing on Sushil Kumar Singh in place of Chhetri, who had just returned from injury. Neither team could create any clear-cut chances but India did go close from set pieces. Winger Steven Dias also had a good opportunity from close range but the Mumbai man couldn’t convert.

In the end, India held on for a well-deserved 1-0 win and made sure that they remained unbeaten in the Barcelona tour with two wins and two draws.

India Lineup:Subrata Pal, Surkumar Singh, Anwar, Gouramangi Singh, N.S.Manju, Steven Dias, Climax Lawrence, N.P.Pradeep, Anthony Pereira, Sunil Chhetri (Sushil Kumar Singh 58’), Bhaichung Bhutia


India Replace Thailand With Palestine In Nehru Cup

7 August 2009 - Peter Reid’s Thailand were one of the star attractions of the upcoming Nehru Cup, but the All India Football Federation (AIFF) has decided to replace them with Palestine after ‘The Elephants’ decided not to send their senior team.
It was revealed to that the Indian FA had asked all the participating nations to send their senior sides, and only then would their involvement be confirmed. Thereafter, the five nations, apart from India, were named by the AIFF for the Nehru Cup. As the Thais wanted to send a junior team, the governing body decided to look elsewhere.

In the past few days, the AIFF has been busy speaking to a few national federations in order to get them to participate in the tournament, with the confirmation coming from Palestine, who are placed 177th in the latest FIFA rankings. Only two teams are ranked above India in the tournament, namely last edition’s finalists Syria (95) and Lebanon (148), who defeated India in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers.


Confusion Over 2009-10 I-League Schedule

4 August - According to the All India Football Federation's (AIFF) calendar for the current year, the I-League is set to start in September and come to a close by the end of March.

However, with the schedule not yet released, it appears that this won’t be possible given that the matches are to be played only on weekends, with the state or district league games occupying the midweek slot.

In November, there are camps for the senior national team and the Olympic side, followed by the SAFF Cup in December. The last month of the year shall also see the finals rounds of Federation Cup, which means that the league will have a winter break.

With 14 teams in the upcoming I-League, a lot of travelling is involved, and therefore meticulous planning of the same is a must. Coaches from several clubs complained that since they don’t have the schedule in hand, it’s getting a little difficult for them to plan for the season.

Meanwhile, several state associations have written to the AIFF to explain that their venues, which are to host the I-League games, won’t be available for a certain period of time due to various reasons.

However, the AIFF have a different story to tell, as they have intimated the clubs and various state associations of the difficult situation and have asked for their suggestions.

On being asked as to how the governing body would deal with the situation, AIFF general secretary Alberto Colaco said, "We had written to the participating clubs at least three months back. We sent a reminder with a copy to the concerned state associations over a month back.

"The following clubs confirmed the availability of their home venue within the stipulated time: Mahindra United, Mumbai FC and Air India (Cooperage Ground); Shillong Lajong FC; JCT (Ludhiana).

“The Clubs from Goa referred the matter to the owners of the stadium. Pune FC informed that they would play their matches at Balewadi stadium but confirmation from ground owners has not been received. Same with Viva Kerala, who have intimated that their home matches will be at Calicut. There has not been any reply from Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Chirag United.

“During the last ten days we received letters from Indian Football Association, which is the state footballing body for West Bengal, informing that Police would not allow matches to be played at Barasat and Salt Lake Stadium for a considerable number of days during September and October 2009.

“Goa Football Association (GFA) forwarded a letter from the stadium manager that the ground was under repairs and they would be able to inform about the ground condition only after the 15th of October. The stadium is also booked for a schools games event until the 2nd of November.

“We have sent a letter to the clubs and the concerned state associations inviting their comments regarding difficult position. In fact the schedule is ready but now we have to take into consideration all the above."


India Draw CE Europa In Third Game Of Spanish Tour

2 August 2009 - India failed to win the third practice game of their Barcelona tour as they were held to a 1-1 draw by third-division outfit CE Europa on Saturday evening.
Skipper Bhaichung Bhutia gave the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup champions the lead but the hosts equalised through a second-half penalty.

For the third successive game Bob Houghton named the same starting eleven, but the most significant team news was the return of striker Sunil Chhetri, who was named among the substitutes.

India made a shaky start and nearly conceded in the early stages but, goalkeeper Subrata Pal’s heroics preserved their clean sheet.

Minutes later, captain Bhaichung had a decent chance but the 'Sikkimese Sniper' couldn’t convert.
The Bhangra Boys soon settled in the match and took the lead just after the half-hour mark when Bhutia made the most of a long clearance and found the back of the net.

Houghton’s men controlled the game for the rest of the half and went into the break with that one-goal advantage.

Chhetri came on at the start of the second half to make his first appearance of the tour, replacing young Sushil Kumar Singh.

The Chhetri-Bhutia combination were not getting the best service from the midfield, but India were doing well at the back and limited the opposition to very few chances.

With 20 minutes remaining, Houghton brought on veteran Renedy Singh and last match’s hero Abhishek Yadav in place of Steven Dias and Bhutia respectively.

A couple of minutes later, Surkumar Singh gave away a penalty which was converted by the Spanish team to make it 1-1.

India created good chances to win the game but the new pairing of Yadav and Chhetri couldn’t convert any of them.

CE Europa might have won the game late but, like their opponents, were wasteful in front of goal, and quite often goalkeeper Pal came to India’s rescue.

India Lineup: Subrata Pal, Surkumar Singh, Anwar, Gouramangi Singh, N.S.Manju, Steven Dias (Renedy Singh 70’), Climax Lawrence, N.P.Pradeep, Anthony Pereira, Sushil Kumar Singh (Sunil Chhetri 46’), Bhaichung Bhutia (Abhishek Yadav 70’)