Subrata shines, India retain Nehru Cup

September 1, 2009

Subrata Paul’s heroics lit up the dramatic summit clash as defending champions India tamed Syria 5-4 to win the Nehru Cup

International Football Tournament at the Ambedkar Stadium on Monday.

Paul conjured up a special performance, saving as many as three penalty shots to script the win after the match had been stretched to penalty shootout following the 1-1 deadlock at the end of the regulation time.

For India, Climax Lawrence, Sunil Chhetri, Steven Dias, Anwar Ali and Surkumar Singh scored in the shootout while Renedy Singh and Meharajuddin Wadoo missed the target.

For Syria, Raja Rafe, Mosab Balhous, Abdul Fatah Alaga and Abdul Razak Al Hussain found the target while the shots taken by Hamzeh Al Attouni, Wael Ayan and Ahmad Haj Muhammad were saved by Paul.

India pocketed $40,000 for their successfil title defence, while Syria went richer by $20,000.

The vociferous crowd, which also included Bollywood actor Salman Khan, had filled the 20,000 capacity Ambedkar Stadium and they ran into the pitch after Pual saved the last penalty of the Syrians.

India had almost won the match without going to the penalty shootout after second half substitute Renedy Singh struck in the 114th minute only to see Syrian midfielder Weal Ayan equalise from a header in the last minute of the extra time (120th).

The second consecutive top finish in the tournament also marked a hat-trick of titles in just over two years by India, under coach Bob Houghton.

India had won the tournament in 2007 and added another title by clinching the AFC Challenge Cup last year which gave the country a berth in the 2011 Asian Cup in Doha.

The win by Houghton’s boys today also meant that India became the only third country in the history of the Nehru Cup to have defended the title after then USSR (1985, 86, 87) and Iraq (1995, 95).

After the barren regulation time, Renedy injected life into the match taking a 35-yard free kick from near the left touchline.

Renedy curled it into the Syrian near post with goalkeeper Mosab Balhous remaining a mute spectator but the Indian joy was shortlived as Syria equalised soon.

In a match which turned rough and tense on several occasions, both sides failed to penetrate with the Indian back four admirably thwarting the Syrian attacks led by Mohammad Al Zino.

Playing with 3-5-2 formation, the physically stronger Syrians were more in possession of ball but they still could not get the better of the Indian defence.

For India, who played their usual 4-4-2 formation, the midfield duo of Climax Lawrence and NP Pradeep failed to hold the ball while the two wings rarely made the threatening crosses.

Steven Dias, who starred against Sri Lanka, could not do much as also left winger Anthony Pereira as the taller and well built Syrians played physical at times.

Bhaichung Bhutia was closely marked by the two tall defenders Ali Dyab and Hamzeh Al Attouni and the Indian captain had a lot of tussle with them, both with and without the ball.

In one such physical tussle, Bhutia was shown yellow card by the Maldives referee Adil Ali, his second of the tournament.

Bhutia’s strike partner Sunil Chhetri had a great game today as he made the Syrian defenders busy will his turns and dribbles.

In the first 15 minutes, India made a couple of threatening moves with Bhutia in the thick of action.

As early as the first minute itself, Bhutia got the better of Hamzeh Al Attouni but his left-footer was blocked by Syrian goalkeeper Mosab Balhous.

In the 19th minute, Dias got a clear look at the Syrian goal after a fine cross from the left by Anthony Pereira but only to see his shot being blocked by a defender.

Next minute it was the turn of the Syrians as Moutaz Kaildini’s left footer gone wide and then an Al Zino header went over the bar.

Courtesy : Times Of India

Force India create history, finish 2nd in Belgian GP

August 31, 2009

Force India’s Giancarlo Fisichella created history by giving India their first-ever Formula One race point,

finishing a sensational second in the Belgian Grand Prix, even as Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen
overtook the Italian, who started from the pole, to win the race.

Fisichella said he had achieved the goal of scoring points for his team Force India, partly owned by Indian business tycoon Vijay Mallya.

It was Raikkonen’s first victory in 25 races and Ferrari’s first this year. It was also his first since the 2008 Spanish Grand Prix, and the 18th of his career.

It came on a day when the drivers’ championship battle was given a shake, if not tipped upside down, thanks to a multiple collision on the opening lap.

That accident, which took out four cars, removed drivers world championship leader Jenson Button of Brawn GP and fellow-Briton and defending champion Lewis Hamilton of McLaren Mercedes.

Button said: “I got a very good start. I got past Lewis, I made up four places. As we were going down the straight through turn five, Grosjean out-braked himself. It is so frustrating to be taken out like that.”

Hamilton shrugged off his fate, commenting: “It’s just one of those days.

For Button the damage to his car and his title hopes was limited as his main rivals failed to capitalise with big-scoring results.

His lead ahead of Brawn team-mate Rubens Barrichello was cut by only two points from 18 to 16 while German Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull jumped back to third, by finishing third.

Vettel now has 53 points behind Barrichello on 56 and Button on 72 with five races remaining.

Raikkonen, champion in 2007, whose place in the team is under threat amid unconfirmed reports that Spaniard Fernando Alonso of Renault has signed to replace him next year, was delighted at ending Ferrari’s barren run of 11 races without a win after a barren first-half of the season.

Fisichella lost the lead he had established at the original start – the safety car was sent out during the first lap due to the accidents – when he was cautious at the re-start and Raikkonen surged into the lead.

But he finished up coming home only nine-tenths of a second behind the Ferrari, proving that the Force India’s Mercedes-Benz engine was the most effective on the circuit and certain to be a threat at the Italian Grand Prix next month. Behind the leading duo, who battled for victory, came Vettel ahead of Pole Robert Kubica, fourth for BMW Sauber, team-mate German Nick Heidfeld, with Finn Heikki Kovalainen sixth for McLaren Mercedes.

THE MONETARY GAINS

Fisichella’s podium finish will also bring monetary benefits to Force India:

• Force India’s travel expenses get taken care of next year, meaning Vijay Mallya’s expenses are brought down. For each lap an F1 car completes in a race, the cost is nearly $1,300 in fuel, tyres and brake wear.
• The 8 points mean that Force India, if it doesn’t finish last, get a share of the television rights money, which is rumoured to be the vicinity of $1.5 billion, at the end of the season. The teams have access to 47 per cent of the television revenues that Formula One Management earns. Each race produces a revenue of $229 million.
• Force India sponsors would’ve got major airtime courtesy the track position. For brands and sponsors, this is return on investment.
• Fisichella is also likely to be paid a point bonus as per his contract. Drivers can get upto $25,000 for every point they score.