MATCH REPORT: India 2-1 Afghanistan

03-Jan-2016


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Cheered on by a vociferous crowd that filled up the Greenfield Stadium, hosts India bettered Afghanistan 2-1 to get their hands on SAFF Suzuki Cup 2015. Goals from Jeje Lalpekhlua and Sunil Chhetri were enough to take India to victory after Zubayr Amiri opened the scoring for Afghanistan.

India opted for their strongest possible eleven, with Hali Charan, Jeje and Suni Chhetri leading the forward line. Afghanistan Head Coach Petar Segrt chose to leave top scorer Khaibar Amani on the bench, going with Captain Faysal Shayesteh up top instead. Mustafa Zazai replaced Amani while Midfielder Zubayr Amiri returned to the starting line up in place of youngster Omid Popalzay.

The match started in tentative fashion, with both teams sizing each other up without committing too many men forward. There were a lot of turnovers in midfield and one such loss of possession in the 8th minute resulted in Mustafa Zazai attempting a shot from outside the box which forced Gurpreet Singh into a low save.

Zubayr Amiri got the better of Indian defence in the 11th minute before sliding a pass to Faysal Shayesteh, whose fierce shot was saved at the near post by Gurpreet Singh again.

The hosts had a great chance in the 15th minute when a Hali Charan cross into the box deflected off Masih Saighani's legs to force Ovays Azizi into a reflex save. The rebound met the head of Jeje Lalpekhlua but Azizi was there again to deny him.

In the 33rd minute, a free kick into the box was chested down well by Sunil Chhetri before firing a weak shot straight at Ovays Azizi.With five minutes to go for the half time whistle, Noraollah Amiri fooled his marker before playing a delicious cross into the box which was met by Faysal Shayesteh's backheel but it failed to trouble Gurpreet Singh.

Both sides started the second half well, with Mustafai Zazai getting the ball at his feet inside the box in the 52nd minute before forcing Gurpreet Singh into a smart near post save. Four minutes later Jeje Lalpekhlua's curling effort hit the bar before going out for a goal kick.

A Bikash Jairu cross was poorly headed clear into the path of Hali Charan by Masih Saighani in the 62nd minute but the Indian's shot failed to trouble the keeper.

The opening goal came in the 70th minute, and it was the defending champions who took the lead after being on the backfoot for majority of the match. Captain Faysal Shayesteh slid in a ball into the path of Zubayr Amiri who made no mistake in finding the back of the net from inside the box.

Hosts struck right back two minutes later to score the equalizer. A cross from the right met Sunil Chhetri's head who flicked it in behind Syed Hashemi for Jeje Lalpekhlua to level the scoreline.

India had two chances in the space of two minutes to take the lead in the game. Narayan Das attempted an audacious chip from distance that was tipped over by Ovays Azizi. The Afghan custodian was brought into action once again when Sunil Chhetri struck a free kick on target.

The score stayed 1-1 after 90 minutes of entertaining end to end action, with hosts playing the better football out of the two teams. Coach Petar Segrt threw on top scorer Khaibar Amani after restart, hoping to provide a focal point to Afghan attack.

India took the lead in the 101st minute after Jeje Lalpekhlua's quick free kick found Sunil Chhetri's run into the box who slotted the ball past Ovays Azizi to make it 2-1. The Indian skipper had caught both Mustafa Hadid and Syed Hashemi sleeping with his run.

Coach Petar Segrt was sent off from his area after protesting referee's lack of action against an alleged hand ball inside the box. The Head Coach of Afghanistan went over to the Afghan supporters before making his way off the field.

India held on to the ball in the final minutes of the game to clinch a seventh SAFF Suzuki Cup in the history of the tournament.





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