NEW DELHI: Jeakson Thounaojam etched his name in the history books for India on Monday. The tall midfielder rose above time and space to head in India's equaliser against Colombia in the FIFA U-17 World Cup group stage match at the Capital. This was India's first goal in the football World Cup - in any age category - as Jeakson leapt to defy gravity, notions, and years of under-achievement, to head home Sanjeev Stalin's wickedly curling corner in the 82nd minute.
India had barely finished rejoicing when Juan Penaloza restored the lead with a simple finish after the Colombian midfielder had earlier given them the lead just after half time. That made it 2-1 in Colombia's favour and that is the way it stayed.
India's coach Luis Norton de Matos clapped all the way to the tunnel at half-time, leading India's U-17 boys to the dressing room after a gallant fight against Colombia, big in reputation and built. In the gentrified atmosphere of the stadium, Anwar Ali showed enough promise to serve India in the long run. Winning aerial battles against the marauding Yadir Meneses and the giant Colombian captain Thomas Gutierrez, Ali's towering presence gave confidence to his teammates up the park as well as to Dheeraj Moirangthem, India's last line of defence.
Showing De Gea-like reflexes, Dheeraj denied Leandro Campaz's header from close and Meneses' left-footed drive to keep India in the game. However, the citadel could not be defended for long. After the changeover, Juan Penaloza, Colombia's right-sided midfielder, advanced down the channel, made room for himself with a drop of his big shoulder, and found the net with a left-footed shot. It was just four minutes in to the second session.
As mercury rose to 37 degrees and the stadium felt like a boiling cauldron, the goal somewhat dampened India's spirited challenge. The cheering fans of the home team did not relent and they really played as an extra man for India. Still, it was not enough to breach the bright yellow South American wall.
Having lost their opening encounter to Ghana, Colombia needed to log three points to stay alive in the group. USA had already earned six after their second straight win in the earlier match against Ghana.