India wins SAFF Championship with penalty shootout win over Kuwait

India beat Kuwait in a penalty shootout to win the SAFF Championship for the ninth time.

Published : Jul 04, 2023 22:21 IST , BENGALURU - 2 MINS READ

FILE PHOTO: Sunil Chhetri shoots the ball during the semifinal of SAFF Championship against Kuwait.
FILE PHOTO: Sunil Chhetri shoots the ball during the semifinal of SAFF Championship against Kuwait. | Photo Credit: MURALI KUMAR K

FILE PHOTO: Sunil Chhetri shoots the ball during the semifinal of SAFF Championship against Kuwait. | Photo Credit: MURALI KUMAR K

For the second match running, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu starred for India as it beat Kuwait 5-4 on penalties (after sudden death) to lift its ninth SAFF Championship title, at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium here on Tuesday.

In the penalty shootout that ensued after the tie had finished 1-1, Sunil Chhetri, Sandesh Jhingan, Lallianzuala Chhangte and Subhashish Bose scored for India even as Udanta Singh missed.

MATCH HIGHLIGHTS: India vs Kuwait, SAFF Championship final LIVE

For Kuwait, Mohammed Abdullah’s spot-kick, first in the sequence, clattered off the bar, but Fawaz Alotaibi, Ahmad Aldhefeery, Abdulaziz Mahran and Shabaib Alkhaldi stretched it to sudden death.

Once there, Naorem Mahesh slammed his penalty home before Gurpreet’s diving save to his left to thwart Kuwait captain Khaled Hajiah gave India its second trophy in under a month.

However, three hours earlier it was Kuwait that started brightly, taking the lead in the 14th minute with a blistering transition. Right back Abdullah Albloushi was released on the overlap and his low cross into the box was tapped in by Alkhaldi.

But the Indians’ mood did not dampen and the hosts nearly equalised off the very next move. It required a diving effort from goalie Abdulrahman Marzouq to thwart a Chhetri shot from distance before Chhangte’s rebound was cleared.

Just when India was clawing its way back, defender Anwar Ali had to be stretchered off after he pulled a muscle in his right leg. A goal down, and with a key player out, the night was turning sour for India.

But some superb combination play in the final third on 38 minutes brought Chhetri & Co. right back into the contest and lifted the 26,000-strong crowd.

After collecting the ball from Ashique Kuruniyan on the left, Chhetri released Sahal Abdul Samad with a toe-poke. The latter unselfishly squared the ball and a sliding Chhangte finished off the move from the right.

India’s intensity didn’t lessen even after the change of ends. In a bid to disrupt, Kuwait upped its physicality, but other than earning a few yellow cards, it did precious little.

The futility of the strategy soon evident, the visitors prioritised the football over their bodies. A couple of half-chances fell by its way and so it did for India as the match, inevitably, slipped into extra-time.

Over the next 30 minutes, both goalkeepers were hardly threatened. India came the closest with barely minutes left on the clock, but Chhangte blasted over from a tight angle on the left flank. The fans gasped in disbelief but it was not long before they would have their hero in Gurpreet.

India 1 (Chhangte 38) bt Kuwait 1 (Alkhaldi 14) [5-4 on penalties].
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