The India U16 men’s team secured a hard-fought 1-0 win over Bangladesh to open its SAFF U16 Championship campaign at the Changlimithang Stadium in Thimphu, Bhutan on Saturday.
The Ishfaq Ahmed-coached side, playing its first-ever international match, was kept at bay by some solid goalkeeping from Bangladesh’s Nahidul Islam before Thoungamba Singh Usham netted the winning goal in the 74th minute.
India began the Group A fixture on the front foot, with Vishal Yadav the main creative force in the first half. In the 14th minute, he intercepted a pass before setting up Bharat Lairenjam, whose effort was saved one-on-one by Islam. Minutes later, the Bangladesh custodian was called into action again as he tipped away Yadav’s left-footed shot on the turn.
Bangladesh also had its opportunities going forward but could not test Aheibam Suraj Singh in the Indian goal. Unlike his counterpart, he enjoyed a mostly comfortable afternoon under the Thimphu sun.
Most of India’s threat in the second half came from long-range efforts. Lairenjam drove a half-volley from outside the box, which was strongly palmed away by Islam before Levis Zangminlun’s free-kick flew over the crossbar. Samson Ahongshangbam was unlucky to not score a goal as his thumping free-kick from 35 yards out rattled onto the bar.
However, he found himself reeling away with joy just minutes later, joining his teammates as they celebrated Usham’s breakthrough goal. It materialised from substitute Manbhakupar Malngiang’s persistence in the final third as he stole the ball from an opponent’s feet before shooting on goal. Islam saved it yet again, but Usham was the quickest to the rebound and carefully tucked it home.
India has a four-day rest before it faces Nepal in its second and final group match on September 6.
Bhutan, Pakistan and Maldives make up Group B. The top two teams from both groups will qualify for the semi-final.