Clinical India romp into SAFF Championship semis

India 3 (Jeje Lalpekhlua — 50th; Sunil Chhetri – 69th; Bandara Warakagoda – 90th) Beat Sri Lanka 0

Goals! What else are strikers are made of? Ask Jeje Lalpekhlua and Sunil Chhetri.

Very often a team is bound to come across such a match. You dominate all through, create openings yet fail to slot it home. And invariably, the failure to capitalise on the situation becomes infectious. But, not if you have Jeje Lalpekhlua and Sunil Chhetri on your side.

In a match where India should have booked their ticket to the SAFF Championship semifinal in the first half itself, Savio Medeira’s boys kept all in the wait till the second half. Riding on goals from the striking duo of Jeje and Chhetri, who have by now become the best of pals, and a self goal by Bandara Warakagoda, India beat Sri Lanka 3-0 to book a clash with Maldives in the semifinal of the SAFF Championship on December 9.

India finished with seven points from three matches but didn’t top Group A, finishing second to Afghanistan on goal difference. Sri Lanka finished on three points from three matches.

Besides the goal, Chhetri was omnipresent. Not reluctant to fall down to hold the loose balls, he initiated most of the Indian attacks. And once off the ball, he made way for Jeje upfront, drawing his marker away almost every time, thus creating yawns in the Lankan defence. He earned his third Man-of-the-match award in the process.

At the kick-off, all what India needed was a draw. The urge in the first 10 minutes, however, made the intent clear — the intent of dominating and seizing the momentum early. The domination produced four free-kicks in the first 33 minutes; a free-header for Syed Rahim Nabi inside the box and a snap half-turn volley from Jeje which hit the post.

The free-kicks and the corner-kicks which went abegging didn’t matter at the end. But not all were happy. Little doubt, Coach Savio Medeira quipped: “We need to cash in on the set-pieces.” The boys will have to be all ears at the drawing board session for sure.

India play Maldives in the first semifinal on December 9, the kick-off of which is at 3pm.

India: Karanjit Singh (GK); Syed Rahim Nabi, Mahesh Gawli, Gouramangi Singh, Nirmal Chettri; Clifford Miranda, Climax Lawrence (C), Rocus Lamare (Jewel Raja – 71st), Anthony Periera (Steven Dias – 79th); Sunil Chhetri Jeje Lalpekhlua (Sushil Singh – 83rd).

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AFGHANISTAN ROUT BHUTAN 8-1: In an earlier match, Afghanistan were in a goal rush when they thumped a 10-man Bhutan 8-1. Afghanistan’s Captain Balal Arezo scored four including a hat-trick while Mohammad Yamrali, Haroon Fakhruddin, Dejaluldin Sharityar and Yousef Mashriqi scored one apiece. For Bhutan, Chencho Gyeltshen scored the consolation goal. For Bhutan, Captain Sanjay Khandu was red-carded in the 48th minute. Afghanistan finished on seven points from three matches while Bhutan lost all their three matches.

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