India qualified for the knockout stage of the Asian Games football competition for the first time since 1982 after outplaying Singapore 4-1 here on Thursday.
India fired in three quick goals in the second half to register its first win in the tournament which helped the team finish third in Group D with three points.
Better goal difference
India made it to the knockout round of 16 on better goal difference. In 2002 and 2006, it had missed out on the knockout rounds on goal difference.
In another match, defending champions Qatar beat Kuwait 2-0 to top Group D with seven points from two wins and a draw.
Kuwait finished second in the group with six points from two wins.
Jewel Raja (13th), Balwant Singh (62nd), Khagembam Jibon Singh (67th) and Maithani (75th) scored for India while Lou Zhenlun reduced the margin for Singapore in the 83rd minute.
The top two teams from each of four groups and the four best third-placed teams will qualify for the round of 16.
The final six group matches of the competition will be played on Saturday but India has secured a place in the knockout round as Uzbekistan and Maldives, the third-placed teams of Group E and F respectively, were eliminated.
An elated coach Sukhvinder praised his boys for the performance which he said was the best in the tournament.
“I am proud of my boys. They played the best match of the tournament. It is nice feeling if we have qualified for the round of 16 though the group matches are yet to be over,” Sukhvinder said after the match.
Group E: Hong Kong 4 (Au Yeung Yiu Chung 2, 33, Ju Ying Zhi 41, Chan Man Fai 87) bt Bangladesh 1 (Hoque 24); Uzbekistan 0 lost to UAE 3 (Al Musabi 10, Al Jenaiby 17, 77).
Group D: India 4 (Jewel Raja 13, Balwant Singh 62, Khagembam Jibon Singh 67, Maithani 75) bt Singapore 1 (Lou Zhenlun 83); Qatar 2 (Abdelaziz 31, Abdil 90+4) bt Kuwait 0.
Group F: Oman 2 (Al Gheilani 10, Waleed 65) bt Pakistan 0; Thailand 0 drew with Maldives 0 . — Agencies