Hyderabad, Aug 3 (UNI) Star striker Baichung Bhutia once again proved to be the saviour for his team as his two goals helped India beat Turkmenistan and book a semifinal berth in the AFC Challenge Cup football tournament played at GMC Balayogi Stadium Gachibowli here today.
After a barren first half, India picked up its game to beat Turkmenistan 2-1 in the last league encounter of Group-A.
With this victory here, India topped Group-A with seven points and will play Group-B runners up in the semifinals.
India managed to end the deadlock in the 55th minute with star striker Baichung Bhutia striking the all important goal off a pass from Sunil Chetri, that caught Turkmenistan goal keeper Shamuradov on the wrong-foot, as the ball rolled past him into goal.
The hosts got a couple of freekicks in the 75th minute, but the real chance came in the 82nd minute when Bhutia did wonders by scoring a goal from zero angle off Renedy Singh's flag corner.
The complacency and defense-lapse by India enabled Turkmenistan reduce the margin to 2-1. With Indian defenders nowhere, goalkeeper Subrata Paul and the Turkmenistan forward Yusup Orazmamedov struck a consolation goal.
India failed to strike in the first half, though dominated with several attacks which Turkmenistan defended well. Indian forward Baichung Bhutia a first starter in this match along with Sunil Chetri, formed a formidable attacking line up, got the much needed feed from the midfielders.
Anwar, Surkumar Singh, Gourmangi Singh in the defence stood like a rock, which prevented many feeble attacks.
India had the best chance in the first half in the 20th minute when star strikers Bhutia and Sunil with one-to-one passes entered the penalty area, but, while receiving the ball, Bhutia slipped in the rain-soaked ground along with Turkmenistan defender.
Bhutia immediately got up and shot, but the alert goal keeper collected the ball.
Turkmenistan on the counter attack a minute later, got a chance, but their substitute midfielder Kuliyev's weak shot landed straight into the hands of goalkeeper Subrata Paul.
India once again made a good attack but failed to give finishing touches.
In the 35th minute of the first half Sunil, after latching on to a ball from Bhutia, essayed powerful shot, but it went stright into the hands of Turkmenistan goalkeeper Shamuradov.
Five minutes towards the end of the first half, Turkmenistan attacker Atayev's shot from right corner sailed over the cross bar.
Tomorrow's Group-B schedule: North Korea Vs Myanmar at Gachibowli Nepal Vs Srilanka at Lalbahadur stadium UNI XR KVV RAR KP2137