Indian youngster Manglenthang Kipgen scored the decisive penalty as India cruised to the final of the SAFF U19 Championship, beating the host, Nepala, 3-2 in penalties at the Dasharath Stadium in Kathmandu on Wednesday.
After a 1-1 draw in regulation time, as the score stood 2-2 in the tie-breaker, Kipgen was called to go for the final shot. As the jam-packed stands rooted for the home side, the Indian youngster showed no sign of nerve and converted coolly to set up the Blue Colts’ summit clash against Pakistan on September 30.
Pakistan had earlier defeated Bhutan 6-5 in the first semi-finals, which, too. went to the tie-breaker.
Apart from Kipgen, the other two scorers in the shoot-out were Arjun Singh Oinam and Gwgwmsar Goyary.
India put up a dominating performance throughout the tournament. In the group stages, they brushed aside the challenges of Bangladesh and Bhutan to qualify for the knockout stages.
Nepal started the semifinal on a positive note but it was India who went into the lead in the first half. Playing long balls into the box from the outset, India’s strategy paid off in the 25th minute when Ricky Meetei Haobam floated in a ball from the deep as the Indian forwards went into an aerial tussle with the Nepal defenders.
The ball eventually came loose before Sahil Khurshid pounced on it and hit a powerful left-footer that beat the Nepal goalkeeper.
Nepal finally levelled the score in the 74th minute. Samir Tamang headed home a Dipak Thapa Magar cross from the right after getting the better of the defender Thomas Kanamoottil Cherian.
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