Sweet revenge for the Afghans

India’s bid to win a hat-trick of Saff Football Championship titles went up in smoke on Wednesday as they lost 0-2 to Afghanistan in the final here.
The Afghans, who won their maiden Saff trophy exacted sweet revenge for their humiliating 0-4 loss against the same opponents in New Delhi two years back. The winners were helped by strikes from Mustafa Azadzoy (8th minute) and Sanjar Ahmadi (63rd minute).
India coach Wim Koevermans’s gamble of leaving out regular captain Sunil Chhetri from the starting XI didn’t exactly pay off although the efforts from Robin Singh and Jeje Lalpeklhua were praiseworthy.
It was their inexperience on the big occasion that cost India dearly as they fumbled repeatedly on the opposition’s attacking third. For Afghanistan, it was a moment they had waited for two years having found the defeat in Delhi a hard to swallow.
A fleet of Afghan Parliamentarians arrived in the afternoon to cheer their team and one of them even went to the extent of announcing an apartment and $25,000 each for the squad if they were to win the match.
Whether the announcement egged them is hard to know but Afghanistan certainly played to a plan as they were able to keep the Indians at bay despite waves of attacks. Both the strikes came off counter-attacks and after each goal, the Men In Red tightened their defence.
Just like their semi-final, Afghanistan got a goal as early as the eighth minute.
India played better after conceding the goal as there were a flurry of attacks with some fine build-ups with assistance from Mehtab Hossain in the central midfield and Farncisco Fernandes down the right.
After the change of ends, Jeje almost singlehandedly bulldozed into the Afghan territory though the left-flank but couldn’t keep it in play.
Chhetri came in the 60th minute and scored almost immediately. However, in the counter, Afghans struck a telling blow scoring the second goal in the 63rd minute.

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