India beat Nepal comprehensively to clinch their eighth SAFF Championship title

The Blue Tigers stamped their authority in the SAFF Championship final with goals from Sunil Chhetri (48’), Suresh Singh Wagjam (50’) and substitute Sahal Abdul Samad (90+1) under tough conditions with the rain pouring down heavily.

In the first half, India took command with greater possession. Nepal found moments of resistance but they weren’t enough to turn into scoring opportunities as the National Football Stadium was greeted with an unexpected downpour.

  • Sunil Chhetri scored the opening goal to break the deadlock.
  • Suresh Singh Wagjam doubled India’s lead.
  • Sahal Abdul Samad sealed the 2021 SAFF Championship title with a goal in extra time.

The first big chance for Nepal arrived during the 16th minute as Rohit Chand received the ball inside the box after Rahul Bheke failed to clear his lines. However, goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu collected the ball comfortably.

Then, Chhetri created a chance by running inside the box to attempt a header but the ball was blocked by Nepal’s goalkeeper, Kiran Kumar Limbu, after a foul was called against the Indian skipper.

It was Chhetri again, who was presented with the best chance of the game just minutes before the end of the opening half. The Indian forward skied a volley in the 44th minute after receiving a cross from Pritam Kotal as the Blue Tigers missed a vital chance to go into the half-time break with a lead. 

But three minutes into the second half, India took command of the game with two goals in quick succession and the deadlock was broken by none other than Chhetri. Adding to his tally of four goals in the tournament, Chhetri scored a clinical header to go level with Lionel Messi (80) in the list of most-prolific scorers among active footballers at the international level.

Two minutes later, Suresh Singh Wagjam doubled India’s lead, putting them in the driver’s seat. Mohammad Yasir found Wangjam who slotted home with a neat finish into the far corner. Manvir Singh also had the opportunity to score soon after but he had his shot blocked by the Nepalese defense.

Trailing behind, it was only until the 79th minute that the best chance of the game arrived for Nepal. Rahul Chand rose high from a free-kick only to see his header brush the upper side of the crossbar and go out of play. 

India put the game and the title beyond Nepal’s reach when Sahal added another goal in injury time. The Kerala Blasters midfielder breezed past the Nepalese defense before producing a neat finish to notch his first international goal for India.

In the end, the result not only sealed the 8th crown for India but also the first title under coach Igor Stimac.

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