SAFF Suzuki Cup 2015: As it happened

06-Jan-2016


A tournament that kicked off with Gorkhalis facing Lankan lions, 12 matches and 44 goals later, ended in fine fashion as hosts India lifted the SAFF Suzuki Cup 2015 for a record 7th time.

Exciting 12 days of action gave us plenty of moments that need recollection.Here's the whole story as it unfolded.

Three team affair in Group A

Following the withdrawal of Pakistan, Group A became a three way battle between India, Sri Lanka and Nepal.Sri Lanka kicked off their campaign in surprising fashion, with a late Rifnas Mohamed goal finding the back of the net to break Gorkhali hearts.

Not only did the first match of SAFF Suzuki Cup 2015 ended with a score line that no one predicted, but it also meant Nepal required to better the hosts in the final group A game in order for them to advance to the semi final.

A Robin Singh double allowed India to come out 2-0 winners in their first group stage game against the Lankans.Robin Singh picked up a knee injury, while scoring his second goal of the game, which would later rule him out of the rest of the tournament.

In the final game of Group A, India confirmed their progression to the semi final and also sent Nepal out from the tournament with a resounding 4-1 win. In a game that saw Nepal take an early lead through Bimal Magar, India clawed back in style with goals from Sunil Chhetri, Rowlin Borges and a brace from Liverpool's DSK academy product Lallianzuala Chhangte helping their course.

Nepal crashed out, whereas India and Sri Lanka advanced to the semi final with 6 and 3 points respectively.

Goal fest in Group B

While Group A produced tight tactical battles and closer games, Group B produced plenty of goals. Out of the 44 goals scored throughout SAFF Suzuki Cup 2015, 15 of them came from games played in Group B alone.

Bangladesh suffered defeat at the hands of a resilient Maldives side that scored two goals in as many minutes to come back into the game after the Bengal tigers equalized through Topu Barman's deflected effort.The win against Bangladesh confirmed their progress to the knock out stage, having defeated Bhutan 3-1 in their opening game courtesy of a sensational strike by Ali Ashfaq.

Defending champions stuck to their philosophy of attacking football in all the games they played. Having thrashed a defensively fragile Bangladesh side 4-0 in their first game, they continued to score goals for fun as they overcame a desperate Bhutan side 3-0 to confirm their progression into the semi final from Group B. The final fixture between Afghanistan and Maldives would decide who topped the group.

Bhutan played Bangladesh in a low key affair on December 28, with a brace from Shekawath Rony helping the latter to come out of the game as 3-0 winners.

Afghanistan defeated Maldives 4-1 to advance into the semi final as group winners. Goals from Faysal Shayesteh, Ahmed Hatifie and a brace from youngster Omid Popalzay which included a brilliant free kick strike, helped the Lions of Khorasan overcome the island nation.

Afghanistan were set to take Sri Lanka on after India clashed with Maldives in the semi final matches that took place on December 31.

Supreme entertainment in the semi finals

Afghanistan were peerless when it came to the style of play they employed in SAFF Suzuki Cup matches. They thrashed surprise semi finalists Sri Lanka 5-0 courtesy of goals from Syed Hashemi, Ahmed Hatifie, Kanischka Taher, Faysal Shayesteh and Khaibar Amani. Afghanistan's No 9 moved on to 4 goals in SAFF Suzuki Cup 2015.

India overcame Maldives 3-2 in a hard fought and entertaining battle that saw Jeje Lalpekhlua score a brace.Ali Amdhan's goal from a corner fifteen minutes from time had Maldives push for an equalizer but the ever impressive Indian midfield that consisted of Eugeneson Lyngdoh and youngster Rowlin Borges remained calm and composed to take India into the final of SAFF Suzuki Cup 2015 where an anticipated clash against Afghanistan awaited them.

The match that decided- India vs Afghanistan

India met Afghanistan in the final of SAFF Suzuki Cup for the third consecutive time. India drubbed Afghanistan in 2011. Two years ago, Afghanistan lifted the trophy after defeating India. With both teams having won one of their two previous final matches, the 48000 supporters that were present at the Greenfield Stadium expected an entertaining affair.

India bettered Afghanistan 2-1 to clinch SAFF Suzuki Cup 2015. Zubayr Amiri opened scoring for Afghans but Sunil Chhetri and Jeje Lalpekhlua scored later on to help their nation lift a seventh SAFF title.

India were proud winners, deserving the trophy more than Afghanistan for the way they stifled their opponents. The Lions of Khorasan were not allowed to play their natural attacking football and were punished for not taking their chances. The tournament ended on January 3 with hosts lifting the trophy in front of their twelfth man. Influential Indian skipper Sunil Chhetri picked up the award for Most Valuable Player and Khaibar Amani received the award for top scorer courtesy of his 4 crucial goals. Afghanistan had fought valiantly and will hope to move onto better things in Central Asia. Indian team will hope this is the starting of something big in Indian football under the leadership of Stephen Constantine.




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