India’s victory against Lebanon in the SAFF Championship 2023 semi-finals would not have been possible without goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu’s heroics.

Gurpreet registered five saves against Lebamon, including one in the penalty shooutout. He helped India maintain a clean sheet during 120 minutes of regulation time before the game headed into the tie breaker. The Bengaluru FC custodian then denied Lebanon captain Hassan Maatouk from the spot, helping the Blue Tigers record a 4-2 win on penalties in the end.

The win ensured India a passage to the SAFF Championship final for the 12th time. They will face Kuwait on Tuesday as they look to defend the title.

“I am lucky that in our team we have such good penalty-takers and I get to train against them. It also helps me when opportunities like this (shootout) come. You can’t save all (penalties), but it helps you to know what the penalty-taker is thinking,” Gurpreet stated after India’s victory.

“The No. 10 may try to trick you; maybe a centre-back or a centre-forward will decide to shoot one way. Experience helps; physicality helps. If I was 5’4”, I wouldn’t have been able to save that (Maatouk’s) penalty,” he added.

Gurpreet is no stranger to magical nights at the Kanteerava Stadium, the home ground of club Bengaluru FC. The goalkeeper ended the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 season with the most saves besides recording seven clean sheets, helping Bengaluru FC reach the Hero ISL final. Gurpreet has kept the most number of clean sheets for the senior men’s national team with a tally of 24 shutouts so far.

“Playing at home, at Kanteerava, in the national team jersey is always special,” Gurpreet stated.

“Another magical night where the team showed resilience,” he added.

In the absence of Sandesh Jhingan, India started the semi-final on a shaky note against Lebanon but slowly grew into the game. The Blue Tigers managed to thwart the Lebanon attack on multiple occasions with Gurpreet putting on a solid show between the sticks. Reflecting on the result, the 31-year-old hailed the team for the fight they put up in a tense game against Lebanon.

“We were shaky in some moments because we were missing Sandesh, but again, credit to Mehtab (Singh) and Anwar (Ali) for making sure we didn’t concede. This team is doing well, and the amount of work we have put in the last five to six weeks is showing. Not in technical or tactical terms, because that is something the coaches will decide. But the grit, the determination and the fight are something I am really proud of,” Gurpreet mentioned.