SAFF Ch’ship: India pass Nepal test with flying colours

Lallianzuala Chhangte announced his arrival at the big stage, as India recovered from conceding an early goal to beat Nepal 4-1 at the Greenfield stadium. The win enabled India top Group ‘A’ and advance to the semifinals of the SAFF Suzuki Cup.

Indian Captain Sunil Chhetri (number 11) carries Lallianzuala Chhngte after the latter scored his second goal.   -  S. Mahinsha

Lallianzuala Chhangte announced his arrival at the big stage, as India recovered from conceding an early goal to beat Nepal 4-1 at the Greenfield stadium here on Sunday. The win enabled India top Group ‘A’ and advance to the semifinals of the SAFF Suzuki Cup.

The 18-year-old Lallianzuala, who came in for Sanju Pradhan in the second half, became the youngest Indian to score in an international match when he found the back of the net with a scorching left footer from top of the box in the 81st minute. Lallianzuala scored another—India’s fourth—in the 90th minute, heading a cross from Rowllin Borges

Captain Sunil Chhettri seized the lead for India with a sublime finish in the 68th minute. The second Indian goal was a gift as Nepal defender Jitendra Karki failed to obstruct the cross from Narzary on the right flank to Chhettri, who was lurking behind.

Until Sunil’s goal, Nepal was very much in the game and troubled India. Goalkeeper Subrata Paul first came out of his guard to deny Anil Gurung and later fisted away a wickedly curving ball from Heman Gurung.

Earlier, Nepal stunned India with an early goal, courtesy a gaffe by defender Pritam Kotal. Pritam lost the ball to Nepalese forward Nawayug Shrestha, who advanced into the box and arrowed in a right footer past Subrata. The ball hit the far post and rebounded to an unmarked Bimal Magar who scored.

The goal silenced the boisterous crowd but India regrouped quickly. The Indians utilized the width and had the Nepalese defence in trouble on a few occasions. A long ball from Sanju Pradhan sent Chhetri clear in the seventh minute but a good tackle by Bishal Rai averted the danger. The Indians swarmed the rival box in a desperate effort to equalise and eventually cancelled out Nepal’s lead in the 26th minute.

A foul on Eugeneson Lyngdoh yielded a free kick and Narayan Das floated in a long ball into the Nepal penalty area. It caused enough confusion and in the ensuing melee, Rowllin Borges blasted the ball into the top of the net for the equaliser.

Coach Constantine made five changes from the team that played against Sri Lanka. Halicharan Narzary came in for the injured Robin Singh to partner captain Chhetri upfront while Subrata Paul replaced Gurpreet Singh Sandu under the bar. Rowlin Borges was rewarded a place in the first XI following his good performance against Sri Lanka. Defender Aiborlang Khonjee and midfielder Bikash Jairu were the new players.

Result:-

India 4 (Rowllin Borges 26, Sunil Chhetri 68, Lallianzuala Chhangte 81, 90) bt Nepal (Bimal Magar 3).