Samuel leads Cameroon to 1-0 win over India
Playing his first match in a Cameroon side that made as many as nine changes, Bite Samuel put the visitors ahead even before the crowd of about 5000 settled down at the Jawaharlal Nehru.
His second-minute strike, the fastest of the tournament, left the Indian defence flailing at thin air, and the partisan turnout shocked.
In the dress rehearsal ahead of Sunday`s summit showdown, Cameroon ensured that they would go into the title clash with the psychological advantage of having beaten the hosts.
Up against the 59th ranked side in the world, India did compete in patches, but failed to put up a show that would have impressed Wim Koevermans. True, the Indians looked at the match as an opportunity to test their reserves, but so was their opponent.
In the absence of rested Sunil Chhetri, India fielded Mandeep Singh and Jewel Raja. They tried, but against a country that produced players like Roger Milla and Samuel Eto and once reached the quarterfinals of FIFA World Cup, breaching the Cameroon defence was always going to be difficult proposition.
On the other hand, even without the services of rested leading scorers Kingue Mpondo and Kologny Merime, Cameroon were served admirably by their replacements.
To begin with, the ball was restricted to the India half, and the quick goal was a reflection of which team dominated proceedings initially in the inconsequential match. 25 minutes into the first half, the stadium went quite for a while, and it was appropriate as the Africans had 70 per cent possession to India`s 30.
Four minutes before the break, in what seemed like a harsh decision for India, Cameroon were awarded a penalty after the referee thought Syed Rahim Nabi had brought down Elounde.
Thankfully, Ebanga Bertin, Cameroon`s another prolific scorer in the five-nation invitational meet, made a hash of it, his panenka attempt failing to trouble Karanjeet.
As the match progressed, the Indians gradually found their bearings, and also gave Cameroon a scare on a couple of occasions.
The marathon man of Indian football, Syed Rahim Nabi came close to drawing level, but his 50th minute header off Clifford Miranda`s flag-kick just about sailed over the bar.
There was another, 33 minutes later, but lady luck again refused to smile on the Indians as Francisco Fernandes header off a cross from the right by Sanju Pradhan went straight to the goalkeeper.
In between, Cameroon tried to double the lead after Elounde Charles drifted across the edge of the area past the crowd of blue-clad defence, but a last-ditch effort by Gouramangi Singh averted danger.
In the injury time, substitution Makon Thierry had a great chance to make it 2-0, but he shot wide, much to the Indians` relief.
Koevermans brought on Robin Singh for Mandeep Singh in the 67th minute And Raju Gaikwad for Gurwinder Singh in the 81st, but the move did not yield a goal.