BENGALURU: When India left for Maldives, they had their eyes on the eighth SAFF Championship title, and rightly so. They have been the most dominant team in the past, and with Igor Stimac having taken a strong squad, there was pressure on them to deliver. Returning home without the title would have been deemed a failure and raised several questions too. The Blue Tigers had started the competition on a shaky note but signed off with an impressive 3-0 win over Nepal in the final to clinch the title at the National Stadium in Male on Saturday. Second-half goals from captain Sunil Chhetri, Suresh Singh Wangjam and Sahal ensured their SAFF dominance.
It was India who started brightly with Nepal goalkeeper Kiran Limbu forced to make a twin save early on. In fact, both the nations got decent chances to take the lead but failed to capitalise in the first 45 minutes.
It would not be wrong to say that the Indian team did not impress in the final third during the first half. Hence, they were desperate to sharpen their finishing skills after the break, and they did it in style. If talismanic skipper Chhetri broke the deadlock with a header in the 49th minute, a minute later, Suresh also got into the scoresheet with a goal, which put them in firm control of the match.
Those two goals gave India the much-needed confidence and they dominated play. In the end, Sahal put the icing on the cake with a brilliant goal to bring an end to their SAFF campaign.