Indian strikers Robin Singh and Balwant Singh struck on either side of the break as India beat 160th ranked Mauritius 2-1 in their opening encounter of the AIFF Tri-Nation Football tournament.

The tournament is being seen as a preparatory one for upcoming Asian Cup Qualifiers against Macau and the home team had to sweat more than they would have expected against a team ranked 63 places below in the Fifa rankings.

This was the ninth win on trot for the 97th ranked senior national team that had a host of U-23 players introduced by coach Stephen Constantine, keeping an eye on the future.

Sandesh Jhingan leading the team for the first time was in for a shock when Mervyn Jocelyn’s powerful right-footer deflected off Anas Edathodika with veteran custodian Subrata Paul completely wrong-footed. It was the 15th minute of the match.

However in the 37th minute, a defence splitting through pass from Rowllin Borges found Robin Singh wide open on the left. The centre forward sped past defender Louis Dorza before unleashing an angular left-footer beating the goalkeeper.

The winner in the 62nd minute from Balwant was a result of a three-touch move. Central midfielder Eugensen Lyngdoh sent on into attacking third where Jeje Lalpheklhua’s deft touch opened wide space down the middle for Balwant.

The former Mohun Bagan forward neatly placed it past the goalkeeper to get the lead for the hosts.

The other attempt worth remembering was from youth international Manveer Singh, who cleverly tried a 30-yard shot finding the rival goalkeeper out of charge. It went inches above the bar but the U-23 international on his debut showed why he is so highly rated in the football circles.

Constantine tried a lotof players replacing Subrata with Amrinder Singh in the second half. Amrinder made a few reflex saves towards the end of the match.

India will now take on St Kitts and Nevis on August 25.

(With PTI inputs)

Feature image: AIFF