India defeat Afghanistan 4-0 to lift their sixth SAFF Cup title


chhetriscores11 December 2011

India managed to retain their SAFF title with a 4-0 victory at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium today. Sunil Chhetri with his spot kick and two assists bagged his fifth consecutive man of the match. The Mohun Bagan striker also bagged the ‘man of the tournament’, ‘most valuable player’ and ‘top scorer of the tournament’.

The fans, who had lined up with the tricolour at the entrance all afternoon, surely didn’t go home disappointed, as a melodramatic turn in the match at the 63rd minute worked in India’s favour.
The Afghans, who have been the underdogs of the tournament, played the match like they had nothing to lose, having already accomplished their promise to their coach of making it to the finals. Coach Savio Medeira’s lucky starting line-up, however, struggled to keep the ball out of their penalty box in the first half.

The first five minutes of the match witnessed the Afghans making five good attempts at the Indian post. In the second minute, Anthony Pereira literally placed the ball for Haroon Fakhrudin who shot it wide. Consecutive attempts from Balal Arezo, Haroon and Sanjar Ahmadi left a bewildered Karanjit Singh under pressure.

The first half continued with the Afghans massacring the Indian side. They kept complete possession, easily outplaying the Men in Blue, not giving them any chance to get to the ball. The Afghans’ repeated onslaughts at the Indian post left no doubt as to who was the stronger team.
Balal looked like he had rockets on his feet, as he tore past the Indian defence and finished with a powerful strike that Karanjit had to dive to save. 

It seemed like the Indian star striker Sunil Chhetri was having a bad day on the pitch, as his repeated falls failed to convince the referee. Sunil fumbled with the ball through the first half, not being able to make even one good move. 

Clifford Miranda sent a free kick sailing to Syed Rahim Nabi in injury time, that Nabi beautifully headed to Chhetri. His awry bicycle on the simple “trap and shoot” ball however backfired. India did not create even one attack in the first half to crowd’s disappointment. 

The second half saw the Indian side come back in the game with a little more gusto, as they started playing short passes in lieu of the long balls and lobs they were playing in the first half.  Their first real attempt came in the 46th minute, when a powerful strike by Jeje Lalpekhlua was easily saved by Hameedullah Yousufzari.

The turning point in the match came at the 63rd minute when referee Sukhbir Singh awarded India a penalty after Jeje was brought down in the box by Moqadar Faizullah. Enraged by the decision, the Afghani custodian and captain Hameeduallah Yousufzari charged at the referee and pushed him. This earned him a red card, causing melodrama as he refused to accept the decision.
Sunil Chhetri stepped up and score the penalty only to find the referee signalling to retake it as Clifford had already run into the penalty box before the penalty kick was taken. Chhetri took it once again to put it neatly to keeper’s left.

The second goal, that sealed India’s fate, came in the 79th minute when Chhetri selflessly passed a grounder to Clifford on the right flank, who dribbled past the last defender to strike the ball into the top corner of the far post from an almost impossibly narrow angle. 

The fans weren’t even done with their celebrations when a minute later Jeje came back to score another stunner thanks to an assist from Chhetri, knocking a grounder to the bottom left corner of the post.
Chhetri who hurt his knee in the move was substituted by Sushil Kumar Singh. In no time, he put a cap on the score board, scoring a left footed stunner from outside the box, sending the ball straight into the back of the net.

The stadium exploded in cheers as the whistle blew, and the fans went berserk as the crowned champions took a victory lap, finally lifting the much deserved trophy. The discontented runners-up received a standing ovation from the audience for the truly exceptional football they played.

 ‘The refereeing was biased’ 
Frustrated Afghanistan coach Mohammad Kargar blamed referee Sukhbir Singh for the defeat. “The referee was of Indian origin (sikh) that’s why he was so biased. We will be writing to AFC and registering a formal complaint soon,” said Kargar after the match.
He further added that they will be asking AFC to appoint experienced in such big matches. “We are not upset because India won and we lost. But it was poor and inexperienced refereeing that cost us the match. That was the decisive moment and it changed the entire match. Even if he (goalkeeper) would have touched the referee it would have been a yellow.  After that decision the morale of the team went down,” he further added.
It was a happy ending for Savio Medeira in his first tournament in charge of the team. “I am very proud of my boys. Our team hardly trained for anytime but we still won. If we would have got more time, we would have performed much better,” said Medeira.
He further added that it was the second goal that sealed the match for India. “It was a clear penalty. The goalkeeper should have controlled his temper and not touch the referee. For me the second goal that confirmed our win.”