A late winner by none other than Sunil Chettri gave India the much-needed win in their dry spell at the SAFF Championship. This man is the definition of clutch. Once again, when the team needed a vital goal, Captain Fantastic came to the rescue to bag in the late equalizer which gives India some footing in the tournament.
However, the heroics of one man should not shadow the great work put in by the rest of the team. Stalemate endings to games against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka put the team under immense pressure to win this game. They completely dominated over Nepal, to whom the goal was a distant dream.
A staggering 75% possession meant that Nepal did not manage to hold the ball for too long. 4 shots in comparison to the 20 taken by India outlines the difference in class between the 2 teams. Coach Igor Stimac will be much relieved after securing those 3 points with one more group game at hand. India now have 5 points in 3 games, one less than leaders and host, Maldives. They are 3rd behind Nepal.
India scrape past Nepal thanks to Sunil Chettri
India started off on the front foot swinging in dangerous crosses as Nepal tried to steady the ship. A couple of moves to Chettri did not pay off as captain Kiran Kumar Limbu was always a step ahead to block the threat. The contest between the captains continued for a while as the team fail to deliver a good ball to Chettri.
India’s best chance came in the 34th minute when Pritam Kotal laid the ball of Suresh to run for. The midfielder did not think twice and sent a low, near-perfect cross to an unmarked Chettri at the far post. A timely nick by Limbu got it all wrong for Chettri as his shot went nowhere near the goal.
The Blues pushed forward as Brandon Fernandes sent a free-kick narrowly over the bar 10 minutes after the break. Manvir Singh thought he scored when his thumping header of Yasir was goal-bound. A diving save from Limbu ensured that the scoreboard remained the same.
The much-awaited winner came when substitute Farukh Choudhary headed Brandon’s through-ball into Chettri’s path. Captain Fantastic volleyed the ball in with his left foot with 8 minutes of regulation time left. The team held till the final whistle to grab the 3 points.
India play hosts the Maldives on October 13th in the final group game.
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