Target practice

By Ergo Correspondent

A brace from lanky Abhishek Yadav gave the visiting Indian team their first win on Spanish soil late Wednesday night. The Indians, who are out on a month-long exposure trip to Barcelona, won their second practice game, downing local fourth division side AE Prat 2-0.

The Indians came out in full throttle and the makeshift forward pairing of skipper Baichung Bhutia and Sushil Singh showed some urgency and combined well to create problems in the rival defence. The duo produced a few half chances with Bhutia even testing the keeper with a long-ranger a quarter of an hour into the match.

Throwing in a surprise of his own and much to the relief of the players the referee called for a water break in the 22nd minute. The match was played in four quarters instead of the usual two halves, a necessity considering the heat wave Barcelona is facing this year.

The hosts looked a little more energised after the mini-break and came close to scoring the opener 10 minutes to the interval. The Indians were lucky to scramble out from a goalmouth raid and both sides went into the break on a deadlock.

Like the first game, Indian coach Bob Houghton went in with a new setup of players for the second session, replacing his whole team except goalie Subrata Paul. Govin Singh and Jagpreet Singh got their first feel of match play on this tour and looked at ease combining well with Mehrajuddin Wadoo in midfield.

The reserves were actually a step or two ahead of their regular counterparts – Syed Rahim Nabi and Yadav looked lethal upfront with a steady burst of pace.

Senior internationals Renedy Singh and Dipak Mandal too combined well down the left flank and most of India’s attacks generated from that side. Showing a tendency to hold on to the ball and playing short passes, a departure from the long-ball tactics of the last game, the visitors dominated possession for most part of the last 45 minutes.

“We were playing too many long and aerial passes during the first game. And the big bodied and taller Spaniards were easily dealing with it. These guys have a huge height advantage over our boys and we have to account for that,” coach Houghton said.

They were paid for their hard work in the 60th minute when R. Mohanraj’s long clearance was picked up by Nabi, who played it to Renedy, and the veteran midfielder’s cross was headed in by Yadav to give India the lead.

Eleven minutes later, on the other side of another mini-break, the former Mumbai FC forward, who is yet to find a club, doubled his and India’s tally when he headed in a Mondal cross.

India played out the rest of the game in a relatively easier tempo. Still, Yadav came close to scoring his hattrick way into the five minutes of injury-time. But he narrowly missed the flight of a Govin centre again from the left in the 94th minute.


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