India lifts SAFF U-15 Championship

Published On: August 28, 2017 05:18 AM NPT By: Sanjay Thapa

KATHMANDU, August 28: India has defeated Nepal 2-1 to clinch the SAFF U-15 Championship title on Sunday. 

In the match played at the ANFA Complex, Satdobato, India came back from behind to win the game in which Lalrokima and captain Vikram Pratap Singh scored the goals to win the match. India had previously beaten the home side in the group stage clash. 
Nepal's coach Sunil Kumar Shrestha said that despite India being a tough opponent, his side presented a strong challenge. 

''Our players played very well regardless of the lack of experience. We could not turn the game in our favor despite playing well,'' Shrestha said,adding, ''Even though we were leading in the first half by 1-0, our performance was not satisfactory in the second half. The team needlessly played under pressure. We were in extra pressure after India came from behind to equalize taking advantage our defensive errors.'' 

Shrestha said that the Nepali players can't be assumed weak.

''We are not a fragile side. Our players proved themselves in every match they played,'' Shrestha said, ''But unfortunately, the first half 'team spirit' was not seen in the second half.'' 

Coach Shrestha said that the players have gained experience from this tournament which will be helpful for the AFC U-16 qualifiers. 

''We will improve our performance by learning from this loss. We will immediately start the preparations for the upcoming AFC qualifiers in our home. Lack of understanding in the defense and finishing problems has been seen in our team. There are teams like India, defending champion Iraq and Palestine in our group. Though the standard of Nepal and India is similar, the other two opponents are very strong. So, we should prepare very well.''
Nepal had taken lead in the 40th minute through Birjesh's penalty.  Nepal was awarded the penalty after defender Moirangthem Thaoiba Singh pulled striker Ranjan Pun in the box. 

India came back into the game after defender Lalrokima scored the equalizer in the 59th minute. He utilized the chance by striking the ball to the left corner which went in by hitting the post after the Nepali defense failed to clear the ball. 

Bikram scored the winning goal in the 75th minute. He scored beautifully by dribbling past three Nepali defenders after midfielder Givson Singh Moirangthem assisted the skipper from the right flank. 

India coach Bibiano Fernandes said that the victory has boosted his side's confidence for the upcoming AFC qualifiers. 

''We were in unnecessary pressure after conceding the first goal by our own mistake,'' said Fernandes, who said that he consoled his frustrated players after not getting the goal even though the ball had crossed the line in the first half. 
''We made tactics to continue playing by the same way we played in the first half and we succeeded in our tactics.''

He added that it was not easy to be the champion of the SAFF Championship because all the teams were strong. 

Fernandes said that even though Nepal is a good side, they need more preparations for the qualifiers. 

Nepal missed a good opportunity to take the lead again in the second half after defender Randip Paudel's shot just went past the goal post. Similarly, forward Darshan Gurung's shot from outside the box went over the bar. Nepal missed a vital chance in the beginning of the second half as Ranjan put the ball just past the post. 

Meanwhile, Bangladesh comfortably defeated Bhutan 8-0 for the third place match played at the APF Stadium, Halchowk. 

India's Bikram was declared the best player of the tournament and Bangladesh's Foysal Fahim the highest goalscorer. Bangladesh also won the fair play award. Fahim scored six goals in the tournament.

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