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India win AFC Challenge Cup

NEW DELHI, August 13: India clinched the AFC Challenge Cup title for the first time by thrashing defending champion Tajikistan 4-1 at the Ambedkar Stadium on Wednesday.

Sunil Chhetri fired a hat-trick while skipper Bhaichung Bhutia struck the other goal in the 19th minute, sending the around 13,000 spectators in the Ambedkar stadium into a frenzy.

Fatkhullo Fatkhuloev pulled one back for Tajikistan in the 4th minute.

Back at a venue where they tasted success last year, a confident India team put aside Tajikistan's challenge and grab the coveted prize of 2011 Asian Cup qualification.

After incessant rains at Hyderabad forced the Asian Football Confederation shift the summit clash and the third place play-off at Delhi, the home team play at the Ambedkar Stadium where India won the Nehru Cup in August last year, a major international title after a long time.

Bob Houghton's charges have also shown immense fighting spirit in all the matches and they realised their goal of joining the elite stage of the continent by qualifying for 2011 Asian Cup after 24 years.

Bob Houghton, an English football manager and former player, was appointed head coach of India in June 2006 by the All India Football Federation. His appointment saw a general progress in India's performances as India win the Nehru Cup in August 2007. But India suffered a huge loss when Maldives defeated them at the final of SAFF Championship 2008.

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