AFC Asian Cup qualifiers: Chhetri and Sahal score as India beats Afghanistan 2-1

Sunil Chhetri's goal in the 86th minute and an injury time goal by Sahal Abdul Samad guided India to a win against Afghanistan in the third round of the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers.

Sunil Chhetri opened the scoring with a stunner in the 86th minute. (File Photo)   -  THE HINDU

Sahal Abdul Samad played the super-sub bringing up a goal in injury time to help India beat Afghanistan 2-1 and keep its AFC Asian Cup chances alive.

The second-round match of the final qualification round saw all the three goals coming in the final five minutes as India came up triumphant thanks to Samad's spectacular goal in stoppage-time when the match appeared to be headed for a draw.

Sunil Chhetri put India ahead in the 86th minute by converting a spectacular free-kick but the Afghans drew level two minutes later from a corner courtesy of a Zubayr Amiri header.

Samad, who replaced Chhetri in the 89th minute, ensured the full quota of points for India with a fantastic grounder that ended Afghanistan’s hopes in the tournament.

The first 85 minutes saw most of the Indian attacks remaining unproductive as the home side failed to scale Afghanistan's defensive formation.

India showed its attacking intent right from the start but found its attacks crashing in the Afghan box. The Indian head coach Igor Stimac brought in a couple of changes in the starting line-up and put the young Liston Colaco in a new role as the centre-half.

AS IT HAPPENED: India vs Afghanistan highlights

But the Indian attack – having captain Sunil Chhetri, Manvir Singh and Ashique Kuruniyan - struggled for the most part as it struggled to open up the opposition goalmouth.

The final five minutes saw a massive transformation as India made a last-ditch effort to find the target and succeeded in doing that against a tiring Afghanistan defence.

The Indian win brought up huge cheers among the thousands who came to cheer the national side, which tallied six points from two wins and now needs to beat Hong Kong, which beat Cambodia 3-0 earlier in the day to make the contest interesting. Samad, who is one of the emerging talents in India’s attacking line-up, proved his knack for scoring as he converted the very first chance coming his way.

The Kerala Blasters striker produced a fine grounder after being set up inside the Afghanistan box by another ISL forward Ashique Kurunian, who has made a move to ATK Mohun Bagan this season from Bengaluru FC.

Sunil Chhetri proved his fame as the most successful Indian striker as he fetched the lead in the 86th minute curling his free-kick past the Afghanistan wall to pep up the flagging Indian hopes.

The striker set up the winning tempo by scoring his 83rd international goal while making his 128th appearance for the country. Samad, who came in place of Chhetri, carried the spirit ahead scoring the winner in the death after Afghanistan made a quick comeback by scoring from a corner in the 88th minute.

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