India U19 edge out hosts Vanuatu to make winning start in OFC Development Tournament

Sunil Rathi's second-half strike earns India all three points in their campaign opener at Port Villa...

India U19 football team kicked off their campaign in the inaugural 2019 OFC Development Tournament with a 1-0 victory over hosts Vanuatu at Port Villa on Sunday.

A 78th minute strike from distance from Sumit Rathi was enough for the Indian Colts to bag all three points in the tournament opener.

Floyd Pinto’s team started the game on the front foot with Aman Chetri coming close with a double-effort as early as the third minute. The India attacker first rattled the post before forcing the Vanuatu custodian into an excellent save on the rebound.

The Indian forward line of Vikram Partap Singh, Chetri and Givson Singh were lively throughout the first 45 minutes but were unable to break the deadlock with the hosts standing firm.

Gurkirat Singh came on for Chetri in the second period as India pushed for the win and the goal finally arrived for the visitors in the 78th minute through a corner routine.

A short corner taken by Givson was ultimately delivered into the box by Vikram and an unmarked Sunil Rathi made no mistake in giving India the lead.

Manvir Singh and Jeakson Singh were brought on as substitutes in the second-half as well for India as Vanuatu upped the ante in search of an equaliser. The visitors, however, were strong at the back and denied the hosts any clear-cut opportunity in front of goal to hold on to all three points.

India will next take on New Caledonia in their second match of the tournament on Wednesday in their final Group B clash. Should they get the better of their next opponents, India will contest the final of the six-team tournament on Saturday.

Estonia, Tahiti and Papua New Guinea are the three teams in Group A.