A 49th minute goal by Renedy Singh gave India a 1-0 victory over Singapore in the Group 3 home match of the Asian Zone 2006 World Cup qualifier at the Nehru Stadium, in Margao, Goa, on Wednesday.
India controlled much of the match and played with aggression in the first half during which they missed four scoring chances. But they were awarded a penalty immediately on resumption in the second session and Renedy Singh made no mistake from the spot.
India could have won by a bigger margin had Baichung Bhutia and Alvito D'Cunha converted the chances that came their way. Alvito missed an easy sitter in the second half and had the mortification of the post coming in his way in the first half.
Singapore, who were a disorganised lot in the first half, came back strongly in the second. They almost equalised midway but keeper Sangram Mukherjee dived to his left to save a left-footer from Tan Kum Leng.
India take on Oman in another home tie on March 31 at Kochi.
The home team started off well and played in unison, with the midfield and defence combining well to set up attacks upfront. They could have opened the scoring in the second minute but Baichung Bhutia failed to capitalise on a loop from Alvito's flag-kick.
Bhutia had another opportunity in the 24th minute following a move between Sameer Naik and Biswas but he failed to control the ball and was dispossessed by the rival defenders.
India, who maintained constant pressure, moved the ball around with short passes. They had two close chances but first Alvito shot wide and later his left-footer hit the post.
India, dictating terms for a brief period in the second half, took the lead in the 49th minute when referee Yasrebi Farajollab of Iran awarded a penalty after Biswas, who was dangerously moving with the ball inside the goal aread, was brought down by Subramani.
The resultant penalty was converted by Renedy Singh.
Few minutes later India could have increased the lead but Alvito made a mess of an open chance as he drove the ball out when he was well set up by Climax Lawerence.
Singapore's midfielders, who looked out of sorts in the first half, got their act together after conceding the goal as they made counter moves from the flanks but were thwarted by the rival defence where Dipak Mondal stood tall in the middle.
Indian coach Stephen Constantine praised the brilliant fighting spirit showed by his boys today and thanked the crowd for the overwhelming support.
"It is a pretty good start and our boys should get prepared against tough opponents Oman in the home match on March 31 at Kochi," he said.
Singapore coach Radojko Avramovic blamed the referee for awarding the penalty but said he is hoping the team puts up a better show in its next match.
"We have to face reality and hope the team fares better in the home match against Japan", he said.
He praised the Indian team for coming up with a good performance.
Referee Yasrebi Farajollah showed yellow cards to Singapore's Indra Sahadan Bin Daud, Subramani Shunmugham and India's Climax Lawrence.