Male (Maldives), Oct 11, 2021, IANS
An 82nd-minute strike by Sunil Chhetri handed India a 1-0 win over Nepal in the SAFF Championship 2021 Group Stage, at the National Stadium here.
With this win, India broke the sequence of draws and are now in the third spot on the group table with five points, one behind Maldives and Nepal, both of whom have six points aprice.
India started off on the front foot late on Sunday evening, winning their first corner of the match as early as in the third minute. The Nepali defence was up to the task though, as they cleared the ball that was swung in by Brandon Fernandes.
A keen battle ensued between the two captains -- Sunil Chhetri and Kiran Kumar Limbu -- in the opening exchanges. India constantly tried to feed the ball to Chhetri, but Limbu nipped the chances in time.
A little under the 20-minute mark, Chhetri managed to control an aerial ball inside the box, but he was herded into a tight angle by the defence and Limbu managed to parry it away.
India had their best chance of the first half in the 34th minute, when Suresh was fed through inside the box by Pritam Kotal. The midfielder flashed a low cross across goal to Chhetri, who was waiting unmarked at the far post. However, a slight touch by Limbu scuppered the chance, as the India captain's eventual shot went agonisingly wide.
With two minutes of regulation time in the first half left, Chhetri created another chance, when he nodded a Suresh cross into the path of Manvir Singh, who tried to control the ball, but was muscled off it, as the two teams went into the break with the score still remaining 0-0.
With eight minutes of regulation time left, captain Chhetri broke the deadlock. Substitute Farukh Choudhary headed an aerial through ball by Brandon onto Chhetri's path, as the India captain volleyed it home with his left foot.
India will play their final group game against hosts Maldives on October 13.