India beat Afghanistan to win SAFF Championship opener
India just need a draw to qualify for the semi-final
The Indian U19 team started their U-19 SAFF Championships with a comfortable 2-0 win over Afghanistan. Kamalpreet and Anirudh Thapa scored a goal each in either half to put India in pole position in the group.
India started the game on the front foot as the front line won a corner in the opening 5 minutes of the game. Kamalpreet looked dangerous on the right wing with his pace being too much to handle for the Afgan defense.
The pressure paid off in the 11th minute as Kamalpreet headed the ball in at the far post from a deep Indian freekick. The goal seemed to act like a catalyst for the Indian attack as they won two more corners in a matter of minutes. Afganistan looked to be hanging on with goalkeeper Mohammad Nawid making a couple of decent saves.
After seeing off India’s blistering start, Afganistan settled down and tried to keep the ball more. In the 25th minute, Afganistan won the ball in midfield and their left back went past two players but his cross was straight at the Barai.
The Indian defense was proving a tough nut to crack as Afganistan were restricted to shots from distance. India almost conceded the equalizer in the 31st minute due to a lack of concentration from Barai as a the goalkeeper thought a shot from Abdul was going wide, but the shot ended up rattling the post.
The game started to get physical as Amit Tudu received a booking in the 35th minute. India continued to attack with Kamalpreet again acting as the main threat going pass two players and laying off the ball for Prashant, but the shot was easy for Nawid to hold on to. India headed into the break with a slender but deserved lead.
India come out for the second half flying
In the 52nd minute, Moinuddin was played through on goal after the youngsters won the ball in midfield but the offside flag went up but the replay confirmed second look the striker seemed to be on-side when the ball was played.
In the 60th minute, Moinuddin was on his toes again as the Afgan defense cleared a corner and the striker hit the ball with his left foot but the ball was saved brilliantly by the exceptional Nawid.
As the game entered the last ten minutes, Afganistan started to get desperate for the goal that could level the game and began committing more men forward. In the 86th minute, Rohit played Anirudh Thapa through on goal and the latter calmly passed the ball into the net.
But the action was not done for the day as Thapa was put through on goal again but was brought down by Nawid just outside the box, earning the Afgan shot-stopper a second yellow card.
India will play Maldives next in the group and could confirm a place in the next round with a draw.