India Enters Semifinals Of SAFF Championship.
SAFF CHAMPIONSHIP: The home team huffs and puffs to victory against Nepal. Chhetri and Mahesh were on target in second half.
India huffed and puffed but eventually pulled off a 2-0 win over Nepal in the SAFF Championship at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Saturday. Second-half goals from skipper Sunil Chhetri and Naorem Mahesh secured India a semifinal spot, along with fellow Group-A side Kuwait, which had beaten Pakistan 4-0 earlier in the day. India played a scratchy first half. There were as many as eight changes from the side that thrashed Pakistan, with only Chhetri, Anirudh Thapa and Sahal Abdul Samad retained.
And faced with a Nepal side that was egged on by a vociferous crowd and was eager to press from the get-go, the home players struggled for fluidity. Either they were eager to hold on to the ball and go solo, like Sahal did on multiple occasions, or botched passes like Thapa and Rohit Kumar. At one point, an exasperated Chhetri went on a lung-busting dash to win a ball back, perhaps to awaken his team from the deep slumber it had slipped into, but to no avail.
It was Nepal that had the better chances. The only shot on target in the first period belonged to Devendra Tamang, whose volley from outside the penalty area drew a save from Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. Bimal Magar fluffed a golden opportunity from point-blank range. The second half started in the same fashion, but just as assistant coach Mahesh Gawli-standing in for Igor Stimac -was preparing to wield the axe on a few players, Chhetri struck in the 61st minute, turning in a low cross from Mahesh from the left flank.
The goal changed the complexion of the game and India soon doubled the advantage, with the ball going in off Mahesh after a Chhetri shot from a tight angle bounced off the crossbar. It deflated Nepal and there was no way back for Vincezo Annese's spirited wards. Chhetri scores his 91st international goal. Nepal's first real threat came in the 18th minute. Arik Bista tested India goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu with a powerful shot but the lanky custodian blocked it.
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