India beat Nepal to win SAFF Championship: Records broken
Sunil Chhetri was superb for the Indian men's football team as it clinched the 2021 SAFF Championship with a commanding 3-0 win over Nepal in the final in Male, Maldives. The Blue Tigers produced a strong second-half display to hand Igor Stimac his first silverware as the head coach. India scored all their goals in the second half to trump Nepal. Here's more.
A superb second half on display handed India a deserved trophy. Skipper Chhetri opened the scoring with a fine header from Pritam Kotal's cross in the 48th minute. Suresh Singh Wangjam doubled the lead two minutes later. Nepal failed to take their chances after pushing hard before Sahal Abdul Samad netted a wonderful solo goal at the death to complete the rout.
India won their eighth SAFF Championship title. They have now won the honor in 1993, 1997, 1999, 2005, 2009, 2011, 2015, and 2021. This was the third time India scored three-plus goals in the final. Notably, this was India's 12th final in the tournament (four-time runner-up). They had lost the 2018 final against Maldives. Meanwhile, Nepal reached their maiden SAFF Championship final.
India started the campaign on a sticky note, earning two successive draws. They were held by 10-man Bangladesh in the opener (1-1). India failed to beat Sri Lanka in a 0-0 affair next. This was followed by a 1-0 win against Nepal in a must-win scenario. India completed the group stage with another win against Maldives (3-1). That helped them earn a finale berth.
Chhetri was instrumental for India in helping them win the tourney. He ended up with five goals in the tournament (highest). Besides the game against Sri Lanka, Chhetri scored in every encounter, including a brace against Maldives. Pritam Kotal provided the most assists (2). Chhetri now has 18 goals in the tournament overall. He has also scored eight goals in 10 matches this year.
Chhetri is now the sixth player in men's international football with 80-plus goals. The veteran Indian striker has netted 80 goals in 125 matches. Notably, he reached the mark faster than Lionel Messi, who has 80 in 156 matches. The other players with 80-plus goals are Cristiano Ronaldo (115), Ali Daei (109), Mokhtar Dahari (89), and Ferenc Puskas (84).