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India upstage Syria 1-0 to lift Nehru Cup

India's N.P. Pradeep (L) fights for the ball with Syria's Wael Ayan during the five-nation Nehru Cup final match in New Delhi August 29, 2007. Hosts India upstaged favourites Syria 1-0 in a hard-fought final to claim the five-nation Nehru Cup title on Wednesday and achieve a rare soccer success in the cricket-mad nation. REUTERS/Tanushree Punwani

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Hosts India upstaged favourites Syria 1-0 in a hard-fought final to claim the five-nation Nehru Cup title on Wednesday and achieve a rare soccer success in the cricket-mad nation. Cheered on by almost 20,000 fans, the home team grabbed the lead in the 44th minute and then held a 10-man Syrian team at bay in the second half.

Midfielder Pappachan Pradeep produced a stunning left-footer from the edge of the box after skipper Baichung Bhutia received a cross from the left and laid the ball off.

Syria, ranked 112 in the world to India’s 151, suffered a further setback when Ayan Wael was shown the red card for kicking prone Indian defender Surkumar Singh in firsthalf injury time.

The visitors, who beat India 3-2 while winning all their previous games in the tournament, mounted a series of attacks in the second half but the home team held firm.

The win was especially sweet for the team’s English coach, Bob Houghton, who has urged administrators and clubs to help rebuild the national team, former Asian Games’ champions but who now struggle even against second-string Asian rivals.

Kyrgystan, Bangladesh and Cambodia also took part.

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