New Delhi: Samuel Bite's lone goal proved the difference between India and Cameroon as the Africans triumphed 1-0 in the last round robin match of the Nehru Cup here on Friday. The final will be played on Sunday.
Both teams made sweeping changes to their teams. Cameroon made nine changes and India five.
Cameroon's greater physical presence proved too much for India to handle. But the Indians showed great character in the second half. They had three very good chances but were wasteful in front of the goal.
Bite scored the fastest goal in this year's tournament with a second minute wonder.
Makon Thierry could have easily doubled Cameroon's lead in added time of the second half. He dribbled past two Indian defenders and the goalie but after doing the hardwork, he inexplicably skewed his attempt high and wide.
Syed Rahim Nabi was India's player of the match. His last ditch interceptions saved India numerous times. The left-back's darting runs had Cameroon in a spot of bother but lack of support upfront proved to be the undoing.
The Indian attack looked toothless without the presence of Sunil Chhetri.
Eugene Talla's brilliant chipped through ball found Bite, who proved too fast for India's stand-in captain Gourmangi Singh. Bite struck a volley from a narrow angle, easily beating the Indian custodian.
India did most of the attacking from the flanks. Manandeep Singh had a golden chance to give India the equalizer. He found himself free in the six-yard box but failed to keep his header on target.
There was drama towards the end of the first half as referee awarded Cameroon a dubious penalty.
Justice prevailed as Ebanga Bertin tried to be over smart from the spot kick, trying to chip the keeper. But his poor attempt lobbed into the awaiting arms of Indian keeper Karanjeet Singh.
India were a much improved side after the changeover. They looked confident on the ball and threatened the Cameroon goal on more than one occasion.
Nabi had the first chance of the second half but his header from Sanju corner went just over the bar.
Cameroon passed the ball nonchalantly and patiently looked for an opening. India tried hard to chase the ball down but were just not able to wrestle the ball away.
India finished the match strongly. Francisco Fernandes had a chance in the 81st minute from a precise Sanju cross but his leaping header went straight into the hands of Cameroonian keeper.
India had a more chances to equalise in the dying minutes of the match but failed to find the end product.