Sunil Chhetri-led India reach SAFF Cup Final, defeats Lebanon by 4-2 in penalty shootout | Football News

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A successful penalty shootout against Lebanon led India to reach the SAFF Championship 2023 Final, as the Sunil Chhetri-led team would now clash against Kuwait.

Sunil Chhetri

Sunil Chhetri reacts in a football match; Image: PTI

The Indian Football Team has reached the SAFF Cup Championship Final after defeating Lebanon by 4-2 in a penalty shootout. The Sunil Chhetri-led team would march into the finals to face Kuwait at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bangalore. After some close moments, the game went into overtime, extending the time to 120 minutes, which eventually led the game into a penalty shootout. India took the first kick and Chhetri successfully picked a score. Mahesh Singh, Anwar Ali and Udanta Singh also picked up goals to help reach India to the Final. The Sree Kanteerava Stadium was roaring with a staggering attendance of 19,640.

During the penalty shootout, Khalil Bader’s attempt went over the crossbar, while Hassan Maatouk’s was saved by India custodian Gurpreet Sandhu. Also, India defeated Lebanon for the second time in a row with this victory after defeating them 2-0 in the most recent encounter at the Intercontinental Cup in Bhubaneswar, Odisha.

Lebanon dominated the game in the first half before the late turmoil broke out. India struggled to get going in the opening ten minutes. In the second minute, the opposition also had a fantastic opportunity to take the lead. But Nader Matar failed to give the ball any direction as it flew over the bar.

India quickly regained their composure and had their first attempt at the opposing goal in the 16th minute. For once, Chhetri acted as an organiser and used a well-placed pass to advance Jeakson Singh. Jeakson spotted Sahal Abdul Samad inside the box with a cross. But Ali Dhaini deflected Sahal’s efforts in the goal line.

The first half was better for Lebanon. The second half of the play continued at a frenetic tempo as well. However, neither Lebanon nor India were able to end the impasse. Both teams played excellent defence.

In the 93rd and 95th minutes, Chhetri had two scoring opportunities, but the Indian captain was unable to score on both of them. 

The Indian football team will compete in the tournament’s championship game for the 13th time overall and the ninth time straight. In the previous 13 tournaments, they have triumphed eight times. The only year the squad failed to place in the top two was 2003.

On July 4, in the final summit match, the national team will meet Kuwait, who earlier defeated Bangladesh 1-0 in the second semifinal of the day.

With PTI Inputs

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