SAFF Championship 2011: Team India are the Champions

India are the 2011 SAFF Championship, curtesy: www.the-aiff.com

India 4-0 Afghanistan
India: Sunil Chhetri(P 70'), Clifford Miranda(77'), Jeje Lalpekhlua(79'), Sushil Singh(90+4')

India are the champions of the 2011 SAFF Championship after defeating Afghanistan 4-0 in the finals held at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, New Delhi. The match had not the feel of a final in the first half with loads of miss-passing and wayward final balls. To be very fair to the Afghanistan team, it was them who were more dominating in the first half quite unexpectedly. Indian team was looking very rusty as the players were struggling against the more physical and speedy approach taken by the Afghanistan team. They were slow to get off the blocks and the main problem for the Indian team was turning out to be the poor midfield. Most of the time Climax Lawrence and Rocus Lamare were chasing the Afghan shadows. Afghanistan were totally dominant in the midfield but the final ball was missing. The only real chance in the first half, happened when Afghan forward Balal Arezo found himself one on one with Karanjit Singh when Mashriqi slipped a ball past the Indian defence line, but the Salgaocar goalkeeper denied the front man from scoring his seventh goal. The first half ended goalless.

Savio Medeira made some necessary changes to the tactics, and things looked bright for Team India at the early stages of Second half. Afghanistan however settled their nerves as the game became more open. It was in the 60th minute when the controversial moment game which would turn the game on its head. Syed Rahim Nabi, whipped a great lofted through ball from the midfield to find Jeje all alone but before Jeje could take a shot, he was obstructed from the behind resulting in a penalty against the Afghanistan. The afghan players protested and so did the Afghan goalkeeper and captain Hameedullah Yousufzari. What happened after that was complete chaos as the referee gave marching orders for the Afghan goalkeeper because of some reasons which might have been the heated protest. Afghanistan camp was upset with the decisions and their coach, Mohammed Farid was showing his frustration. Sunil Chhetri came up with a calm finish in front of the goal from the spot kick which was asked to be retaken. The goal opened the floodgates as Afghanistan were a man down. Clifford Miranda's magical run continued as he scored his third goal of the tournament from a narrow angle with his weaker foot to make the scoreline 2-0 and thus, almost assuring the victory in the 77th minute. A minute later it was a three goal lead when Sunil Chhetri provided the assist to his striking partner Jeje Lalpekhlua, who slotted it past the substitute Afghanistan goalie. Sunil Chhetri had to be replaced after a goal and on came Sushil Kumar Singh who was the winning captain of the side which defeated Maldives in the last editions final. Sushil Kumar Singh finished the onslaught with a superbly executed powerful shot from well outside the box which dipped into the goal to make it 4-0 to India and thus making them the record 6th time champion.

Savio Medeira side thus became the first person to win the trophy both as player and as a coach. Sunil Chhetri finished with an astonishing 7 goals from 5 matches. For Afghanistan, it was a brave effort and certainly one to remember. One can only feel that they will become stronger after putting up such a wonderful show. Perhaps, the scoreline did not reflect the performance the Afghan team put in. On India's side, a win is a win but one certainly feel that other nations are progressing faster and we need to raise the bar.

Congratulations to Team India for winning the 2011 SAFF Championship.
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About Debraj Banerjee

Hi, I am Debraj Banerjee from Adra, West Bengal. A keen follower of Indian football and always an optimist that the game will get the recognition it truely deserves. What we ask from you is your support and one day the dream might turn true. Fingers crossed for Indian football. Cheers!

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