BENGALURU: A 10th minute strike from forward Robin Singh and some heroics under the bar from goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu ensured India's 1-0 win against Guam in a World Cup qualifier group D encounter here on Thursday.
Despite playing the major part of the game with 10 men, after Sehnaj Singh was marched out, the Indians at last had something to cheer for as they collected their first points after losing five consecutive games. India are already out of the competition, and bring up the bottom of the table with three points.
The hosts were quick to draw first blood as Robin Singh got on the score sheet just minutes into the contest. Sandhu had sent a long-ball forward which was chased down by Sunil Chhetri. The striker then played it back for his partner Robin who waltz past a defender and curled the ball into the net, a sublime finish which brought the crowd at the Kanteerava to their feet.
Thereafter, Guam tried to stage a comeback and were successful in creating a few chances but the Indian defenders were resilient and did not bulge an inch.
A few minutes later, it was Pritam Kotal who planted a cross in the box which was intercepted but it fell kindly for Chhetri who set it up for Eugeneson Lyngdoh. The midfielder's shot sailed over the crossbar but at least he should have hit the target.
Guam's Ryan Guy had his moment in the 41st minute but his header fizzed past the post. Around the same time, Indian defender Sehnaj was sent off for his high tackle on Justin Lee.
At half time, India led 1-0.
After the breather, Guam started taking advantage of their numerical superiority and build some quality attacks. But some of them lacked clinical finishes as the strikers kept finding Sandhu's gloves who stood like a wall before the Indian goal.
Robin was again in the thick of things as he latched onto a ball at the edge of the box and then turned around to shoot but his weak attempt was easily parried away by rival goalkeeper Doug Herrick.
Thereafter, the tourists pressed on the gas and created various opportunities but somehow they just could not find the target.
In one such instance, skipper Jason Cunliffe shot wide from close and then Mason Grimes' header from a corner also flew over the woodwork.
In the 74th minute, Indian defender Arnab Mandal almost scored an own goal as his header was creeping into the net but Sandhu acrobatically punched the ball away.
Sometime later, it was a Brandon McDonald piledriver which took a deflection of Sandesh Jhinghan and Sandhu again was seen in action making a stunning save.
Guy finally managed to find the back of the Indian net but it was disallowed by the linesman who believed that the initial delivery from a corner had gone behind before curling back into play.
In the last few minutes of the game, Guam threw in all they had but the Indian defence and Sandhu stood strong.