As Ashique Kuruniyan lined up a shot at goal, three Hong Kong defenders rushed to narrow angles and make a block. The shot was deflected, lost all its pace and rolled casually towards the centre of the box, where Anwar Ali stood, waiting.
He took a quick step forward, then a half-step to set himself up to powerfully drive the ball into the goal with his left foot.
Within 56 seconds of the match, the 21-year-old had put India in the lead. The team would eventually come up with a 4-0 win in their last AFC Asian Cup third round qualifier, at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata. They had already qualified for the continental event next year before the match began, but making it three wins out of three in Group D in front of packed stands amid pouring rain left a nice finishing touch to a good campaign.
For Ali though, scoring the opener holds great significance. It marked a new milestone in a young career that had once seen him banned from playing competitive football because of a heart condition. But on Tuesday, he scored his first ever international goal in his sixth appearance for the national team.
“I scored today, I’m very happy for that and…