India suppressed Nepal 3-0 on Saturday to clinch their 8th SAFF Championship Final title. Goals from Sunil Chhetri, Suresh Singh and Sahal Abdul Samad in the second half helped the Blue Tigers achieve victory.
Chhetri netted 49 minutes into the match. His goal, marking his 80th international goal, puts him level as Lionel Messi. In the 50th minute, Suresh Singh doubled the advantage to ease the way for his team. Singh’s goal was very welcome following a run of mediocre outings.
Sahal Abdul Samad rounded it off for 3-0 when he dazzled defenders in the 90th minute.
Despite having all the possession, India were unsuccessful in breaking the deadlock. Nonetheless, soon after the break, Sunil Chhetri put India ahead. Not giving Nepal breathing room, Suresh struck to make it 2-0.
This title triumph is India’s first under head coach Igor Stimac. Stimac was under fire recently for his team’s incapacity to grab enough wins. Nevertheless, Stimac’s players delivered results when it mattered most. In this edition of the tournament, the Blue Tigers were sharp and ruthless in front of goal, treating the fans to an exquisite game.
Jiri Pesek in 1993 and Stephen Constantine in 2015 won the title as well. Now, Stimac becomes the third foreign coach to lift the title with team India.
India took the lead through a Chhetri header. Pritam Kotal lobbed in a ball from the right which found the Indian striker. Chhetri was clinical and gave the Nepalese goalkeeper no chance to react to produce any kind of resistance. Shortly after, India launched the attack on a disoriented Nepal. Yasir Mohammad bolted down the wings and cut back sharply. Playing it over to Suresh, he made no mistake as he buried it in the back of the net.
India were now on the hunt to kill the game. They pressed hard for more but were not able to add to the score. Manvir Singh did have a chance in the 52nd minute. He was through on goal. However, his left-footed attempt was successfully dealt with.
79 minutes in, Udanta Singh was gifted another great opportunity. He was left unmarked to take a shot at goal after breaking free. But Rohit Chand was on high alert and made an impressive block to disallow the Indian winger. Neither side could score at the break. Both India and Nepal failed to take advantage of the changes that popped up for them.
India squandered an opportunity to go ahead just before half-time. In came a delivery from the right-wing meant for the Indian captain. Unfortunately, the shot was off target. Nonetheless, India more than compensated with a breath-taking second-half display. On the touchline, Stimac’s joy was uncontainable.
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