July 04 2020
India is SAFF champion as Afghanistan runs out of steam (football)
11 December 2011

The Afghan brigade ran out of steam and men when it mattered. India knocked in three goals in the span of ten minutes and claimed the SAFF Championship title to leave a motivated Afghanistan in a daze on a floodlit night at the Nehru Stadium here.

The final score line of 4-0 was a story hard to believe for the Afghans who played their hearts out. All the goals came in the second half after Afghanistan had toyed with India in the first.

But India held its nerves and temper to emerge a clear winner. A penalty against the run of play transformed the contest.

Sunil Chetri put India in the lead in the 71st minute, after the successful penalty conversion had to be re-taken, and a goal each by Clifford Miranda and Jeje Lalpekhula buried the Afghan ambitions.

An injury time strike by substitute Sushil Kumar Singh rubbed salt into the wounds as Afghanistan lost the tempo, conceding the last three goals when one man down.

The Indian team was richer by $25000 but importantly it had retained the title, reputation and regional supremacy too.

A counter-attack, India's first goal-worthy move, created panic in the Afghan ranks and Jeje, pursuing a Rahim Nabi floater, was brought down inside the box by Faisal Safa.

An agitated Afghan goalkeeper, Hameedullah Yousufzari, made it worst by his offensive gestures and was promptly given the marching orders by referee Sukhbir Singh from Singapore. The penalty was comfortably converted by Chetri.

Scorching pace

The Afghans had set a scorching pace in the first session, leaving the Indians breathless and clueless. It was too lop-sided as the Afghans played havoc on the pitch. The home supporters who had very little to cheer for did so mostly when the Afghans missed.

The Indian half was under siege. The Afghans were all over, even the defenders took turns to go up and the attacks came from either flank.

There was no respite for Mahesh Gawli and Gouramangi Singh, often embarrassed as the Afghans flashed past them. It was a matter of time, one thought, before the Afghans would score. They almost did. Balal Arezo tested goalkeeper Karanjit Singh.

India did nothing of note in the first half. And then it all changed on resumption.

A Jeje snap shot soon on resumption was an indication of the winds of change. Miranda's goal, the second of the night, was a beauty. He collected Chetri's through ball, entered the box, dodged Sharityar and found the far corner (79th minute). Jeje then finished a Chetri move on the left a minute later and Sushil completed the tally.

It was a glorious night for Chetri, who ended up with a number of awards — man of the match, man of the tournament, most valuable player and highest scorer (7).

The Afghans were devastated, some of them in tears, but they accepted the result gracefully, even ‘applauding' the referee at the presentation ceremony.

The result: India 4 (Sunil Chetri, Clifford Miranda, Jeje Lalpekhula, Sushil Kumar Singh) bt Afghanistan 0.

The teams: India: Karanjit Singh; Nirmal Chetri, Gourmangi Singh, Mahesh Gawli and Syed Rahim Nabi; Anthony Pereira (Steven Dias, 73rd), Climax Lawrence, Rocus Lamhare and Clifford Miranda (Lalrindika Ralte, 93rd); Jeje Lalpekhlua and Sunil Chetri (Sushi Singh, 84th).

Afghanistan: Hameedullah Yousufzari; Ata Yamir Ali, Djelaludin Sharityar, Faisal Safa and Ghulam Abdul Hoddein (Bashir Darman, 66th); Haroon Fakhrudin, Mohammed Esrafil, Yousef Mashriqi and Moqadar Faizullah; Sanjar Ahmadi (Massod Hashmi, 75th) and Balal Arezo.



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