In a thrilling semi-final match at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bangalore, India showed their stamina and determination to beat Lebanon in a penalty shootout to enter in SAFF final.
However, the match ended goalless after extra time, but the Blue Tigers kept their nerve to secure a place in the SAFF Championship final. Let’s dive into the exciting contest where India’s goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu shone and displayed unwavering team spirit.
What do we know?
The semi-final match between India and Lebanon lived up to the hype with a determined performance from both teams. The Cedars started strongly and, in the absence of the experienced Sandesh Jhingan, were trying to fool the Indian defense. Nader Matar and Zain Al Abidine Faran threatened from the start, but Gurpreet Singh Sandhu rose to deny Lebanon.
India weathered the storm and gradually shifted the momentum in its favor at SAFF final. Led by captain Sunil Chhetri, the Blue Tigers applied pressure and clamped down on Lebanon, limiting their preparation game. The tactical adjustment paid off as India gained the upper hand over the opposition, creating chances through the creativity of Anirudh Thapa.
Magnificent cross from Thapa, finished off by Pritam Kotal, who was about to break the tie and finished off just past the net. Lallianzuala Chhangte and Sahal Abdul Samad came close, but India kept creating chances, but the first half ended without much success.
India kept up their momentum in the second half, but Lebanon fought back bravely to deny the hosts clear chances. Both teams struggled to find the target, with efforts from Chhangte and Farran going wide.
Therefore, the match went into extra time after regulation time ended goalless. The tension was palpable as both teams searched for a decisive goal. Chhetri and Udanta Singh came close for India, but Lebanon’s goalkeeper Mehdi Khalil held his ground with a crucial save. The first came thanks to Chhetri’s volley shot from outside the box, which was brought down, while in the second, Rohit launched a brilliant counter-attack that allowed Udanta to run the ball into the Lebanon box. He sold a few steps before the Lebanese goalkeeper tipped in the shot.
When neither side could find a winner, the match went to a penalty shootout. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu emerged as the hero, pulling off a brilliant save to stop Lebanon’s Hassan Maatouk and set the tone for India. Chhetri, Anwar Ali, Mahesh Singh, and Udanta Singh showed courage to convert penalties, while Lebanon’s Khalil Badar sent his crucial fourth penalty into the stands, respectively.