India defeated Nepal 2-0 to advance to semifinals of SAFF Championshipstext_fields
Bengaluru: In their second group game, India defeated Nepal 2-0, led by another goal from captain Sunil Chhetri, securing a spot in the SAFF Championship semifinals. Prior to Mahesh Singh's goal to seal the home team's second straight victory in the 70th minute, Chhetri had scored his fourth goal of the game in the 61st minute. In their debut game on Wednesday, India defeated Pakistan 4-0, with Chhetri scoring a hat-trick. After Ali Daei of Iran (109 goals from 148 matches), Chhetri (91 goals from 139 matches) was already the second most prolific scorer among Asians and third among active players worldwide. Among Asian players that are currently playing, he scores the most frequently.
With six points from two wins, India qualified for the semifinals from Group A along with Kuwait (also six points), who beat Pakistan 4-0 earlier in the day for their second victory.
India plays Kuwait on June 27 to decide the group winner. Nepal and Pakistan are out of the reckoning for a semifinal spot as they lost two matches each.
Before India broke the deadlock, they had to ward off a strong fight from Nepal. India entered the match with large-scale changes as only Chhetri, Anirudh Thapa and Sahal Abdul Samad retained their places in the starting 11 from the previous match against Pakistan.
Nepal ran India close the whole of the first half with a fine display of solid defence and quick counterattacks.
The first clear chance of the match came Sahal's way but his header from a cross sailed just wide of the goal post in the 21st minute.
Nepal could have gone 1-0 up in the match had Bimal Ghatri been a bit quicker with his shot, as it was kicked away by Rohit Kumar close to the goal line in the 34th minute.
In the 41st minute, Mahesh Singh, who made a fine run down the right flank, jinked a lovely cross to Sahal inside the box but the latter overran the ball and could not execute a volley.
India showed more urgency and purpose in the second half, and the result came their way in the 61st minute.
Sahal and Mahesh engaged themselves in a lighting one-two to evade the Nepalese defence before finding an unmarked Chhetri inside the box, and the forward just had to beat goalkeeper Kiran Limbu.
However, Mahesh Singh was right in place to head the ball into the net in the 70th minute as India gained a decisive 2-0 lead.
Despite conceding a two-goal lead, Nepal tried gamely to stage a comeback. But India was able to keep the scoreline intact.
With PTI inputs