Goals from Naorem Mahesh Singh and Sunil Chhetri guide India to a 2-0 win over Nepal
India booked their tickets to the semi-finals of the 2023 SAFF Championship with a 2-0 win over neighbors Nepal at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru. Sunil Chhetri scored a goal in the 61st minute while Naorem Mahesh Singh netted another one in the 70th minute to seal the victory.
India started the game in a 4-3-3 formation with Gurpreet Singh Sandhu donning the gloves. Rahul Bheke, Akash Mishra, Mehtab Singh, and Nikhil Poojary formed the back four with Anirudh Thapa, Sahal Abdul Samad, and Rohit Kumar playing as the three midfielders. Flanked by Naorem Mahesh Singh and Udanta Singh, skipper Sunil Chhetri led from the front.
Nepal played in a 4-4-2 formation with Kiran Kumar Limbu guarding the sticks. Ananta Tamang, Laken Limbu, Bimal Gharti Magar, and Ayush Ghalan formed the back four with Devendra Tamang, Arik Bista, Anjan Bista, and Sanish Shrestha playing as the four midfielders. Manish Dangi and Rohit Chand were deployed as the two strikers.
India burst forward through Udanta in the third minute but Ananta came up with a crucial block in the 3rd minute. Nepal had their first chance in the 13th minute when Manish Dangi and Anjan Bista tried to create something for the team. But, Gurpreet intervened just in time to thwart the danger.
Sahal was presented with a wonderful opportunity in the 15th minute when he received a cross from the left flank. However, instead of pulling the trigger on the first attempt, he took too much time to release the shot and that allowed Nepalese defenders to put bodies behind in defense.
Akash’s lung-bursting run through the left flank found Sahal in the centre two minutes later but the latter’s shot was inches wide. Nepal almost bagged a goal in the 18th minute when Alik Bista volleyed a shot after India headed it away through a corner kick. However, Sandhu positioned himself perfectly to palm it away.
Mahesh made a darting run through the left flank and tried to cut it towards the middle but Nepal’s defenders cleared the ball before it could reach Chhetri in the 27th minute. Laken Limbu went for glory in the 29th minute but it was inches off the post.
Nikhil Poojary made a costly error in the 33rd minute when he lost the ball in the final third. Manish Dangi got to the end of it and crossed it towards the centre. But, Rohit Kumar made a timely interception at the end.
Udanta found himself at the receiving end of a diagonal cross and tried to swing a cross but Kiran Limbu made himself big to collect the ball in the 40th minute.
Nepal started the second half strongly with Devendra Tamang beating his marker and threading a lovely through ball. However, no forward from Nepal was able to reach there. Chhetri and Udanta combined nicely in the 51st minute to set up a shot but Rohit Chand’s intervention at the last minute ensured no shot was taken.
Udanta finally unleashed a shot in the 55th minute after receiving a pass from Chhetri but his shot sailed high above the crossbar. Mahesh whipped in a ball from the left flank and Udanta once again reached there. However, his shot failed to cross the host of Nepal legs which stood past him.
Chhetri finally broke the deadlock in the 61st minute after slotting home Naorem Mahesh Singh’s cross from the left flank. Akash Mishra tried something similar six minutes later but his cross was way high for any India forward to head home.
In the 70th minute, India broke through on the counter through Sahal and the Kerala Blasters midfielder passed it towards Chhetri, whose shot hit the crossbar but Naorem Mahesh Singh pounced on the rebound to put it in the back of the net.
A few minutes later, substitute Lallianzuala Chhangte found himself at the end of a cross off a corner kick but this time Nepal’s goalkeeper saved his shot. India continued to direct its attacks through Chhangte but Nepal held their lines tightly to avoid any further goals from leaking.
Nepal will now face Pakistan on Tuesday in a match that will decide which nation will finish third in Group A while India will face Kuwait with hopes of keeping their invincible run going on Tuesday evening.