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India beat Kuwait 5-4 in penalties to win 9th SAFF Championship title

InternationalFootballIndia beat Kuwait 5-4 in penalties to win 9th SAFF Championship title

Srinagar: India overcame a resilient Kuwait side to lift record 9th SAFF Championship title in Bengaluru on Tuesday, defeating Kuwait in penalty shootout.

India emerged winner by 5-4 in the shoot-out after both sides were deadlocked 1-1 in 120 minutes in the summit clash.

After five rounds of penalty kicks the score-line remained 4-4 as sudden-death came into play.

Mahesh Naorem scored for India in the sudden death while India goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu saved Khaled Hajiah’s shot to help the team secure a thrilling win.

In the regulation time, Shabaib Al Khaldi had put Kuwait in the lead in the 14th minute before Lallianzuala Chhangte equalised in the 39th minute.

Defending champion India and Kuwait had also played out a 1-1 draw in their last group match.

This was the second time India won in the penalty shootout. They had made it to Tuesday’s summit clash after beating Lebanon 4-2 in penalty shootout in the semifinal on July 1. Sandhu had also made a crucial save in the shootout then.

For India, captain Sunil Chhetri, Sandesh Jhingan, Chhangte, Subasish Bose and Mahesh converted while Udanta Singh missed.

Before the shootout drama, Kuwait held a slight edge as they pressed forward for goals often in the first half.

The relentlessness fetched the desired result in the 14th minute. Mobarak Al Faneeni released Abullah Al Bloushi on the left wing with a deft pass. Al Bloushi found Shabaib Al Khaldi inside the box with an accurate cross which the latter slotted past India custodian Sandhu to give Kuwait 1-0 lead.

India could have levelled the scores within a minute but Kuwait goalkeeper Abdul Rahman blocked Chhangte’s long ranger.

But Chhangte, who was named AIFF Men’s Player of the Year on Tuesday, was not to be denied a second time in the 39th minute.

After a lovely exchange of passes between Sahal Abdul Samad and captain Chhetri, the latter found an unmarked Chhangte deep inside the box. Chhangte, India’s energetic No. 12, had little trouble in beating Abdul Rahman to find the equaliser.

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