The Indian national team has won their final Group A match against Sri Lanka to book a place in the semifinals of the SAFF Championship 2011.
The defending champions broke the deadlook in the 50th minute, when Jeje Lalpekhlua gave India the lead with a powerful shot.
Sunil Chhetri doubled the lead with a great header off a Clifford Miranda cross from the left flank.
Sri Lanka’s R. N. A. M. A. Bandara Warakagoda deflected a cross from the right side by substitute Steven Dias into his own goal to make it a comfortable 3-0 win for India.
Savio Medeira’s team will now face the Maldives in the semifinals on Friday.
SAFF Championship 2011 – Group A
at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Delhi
INDIA 3-0 SRI LANKA
1-0 Jeje Lalpkhlua (50′)
2-0 Sunil Chhetri (69′)
3-0 R. N. A. M. A. Bandara Warakagoda (90’+2′, og)
1-Karanjit Singh; 14-Mahesh Gawli, 4-Nirmal Chettri, 19-Gouramangi Moirangthem Singh, 22-Syed Rahim Nabi; 8-Climax Lawrence [C], 15-Clifford Rayes Miranda, 12-Anthony Pereira (79′ Steven Benedic Dias), 21-Rocus Lamare (72′ 23-Jewel Raja Sheikh); 10-Jeje Lalpekhlua (84′ 18-Sushil Kumar Singh), 11-Sunil Chhetri
25-Sujan Perera; 4-Well Don Rohana Dinesh Ruwanthilake [C], 2-R. N. A. M. A. Bandara Warakagoda, 30-Dhanushka Wijesiri, 15-Chameera Krishantha; 10-Wella Hettige Chathura Gunaratne, 5-Mohamed Naufar Mohamed Issadeen, 12-Mohamed Zain, 7-T. R. Rizvi Tuwan (46′ 20-Mohamed Shafraz Kaiz); 11-Nipuna Devinda Bandara Liyana, 16-Pushpakumara Pasqual Handi Nadeeka
Goals! What else are strikers are made of? Ask Jeje Lalpekhlua and Sunil Chhetri.
Very often a team is bound to come across such a match. You dominate all through, create openings yet fail to slot it home. And invariably, the failure to capitalise on the situation becomes infectious. But, not if you have Jeje Lalpekhlua and Sunil Chhetri on your side.
In a match where India should have booked their ticket to the SAFF Championship semifinal in the first half itself, Savio Medeira’s boys kept all in the wait till the second half. Riding on goals from the striking duo of Jeje and Chhetri, who have by now become the best of pals, and a self goal by Bandara Warakagoda, India beat Sri Lanka 3-0 to book a clash with Maldives in the semifinal of the SAFF Championship on December 9.
India finished with seven points from three matches but didn’t top Group A, finishing second to Afghanistan on goal difference. Sri Lanka finished on three points from three matches.
Besides the goal, Chhetri was omnipresent. Not reluctant to fall down to hold the loose balls, he initiated most of the Indian attacks. And once off the ball, he made way for Jeje upfront, drawing his marker away almost every time, thus creating yawns in the Lankan defence. He earned his third Man-of-the-match award in the process.
At the kick-off, all what India needed was a draw. The urge in the first 10 minutes, however, made the intent clear — the intent of dominating and seizing the momentum early. The domination produced four free-kicks in the first 33 minutes; a free-header for Syed Rahim Nabi inside the box and a snap half-turn volley from Jeje which hit the post.
The free-kicks and the corner-kicks which went abegging didn’t matter at the end. But not all were happy. Little doubt, Coach Savio Medeira quipped: “We need to cash in on the set-pieces.” The boys will have to be all ears at the drawing board session for sure.
India play Maldives in the first semifinal on December 9, the kick-off of which is at 15.00 IST (10.30 CET / 9.30 GT)
(AIFF Match Report)