SAFF U-15 Championship 2019: India trounce Nepal to win the tournament
by Shubham Sharma
Kalyani: The India U-15 national football team defeated Nepal by 7-0 to lift the SAFF U-15 2019 Championship here at the Kalyani Stadium on Saturday.
A hat-trick by Striker Sridarth Nongmeikapam and goals from Maheson Singh, Amandeep, Sibajit Singh and Himanshu Jangra apiece was enough to put up a convincing performance over the arch-rival neighbors.
Thus, Bibiano Fernandes-coached side scored 28 goals in 5 matches while keeping a clean sheet throughout the tournament.
With this tournament win, India are now the most successful team in the tournament's history, having won the title for the third time after previous wins in 2013 and 2017 editions of the age-group tournament.
"I would like to thank each one of my support staff, the AIFF management at Football House, and SAI for their support,” Bibiano said at the post-match press conference.
“We are happy to be champions. We came here with an aim, and we have achieved it. This was a preparation for the AFC Qualifiers and it makes us confident about what we can achieve,” he added.
“I am extremely happy the manner boys responded. They kept up the momentum and the intensity since the first match. I am extremely proud of them.”
India U-15 Captain Anish Majumdar dedicated the victory to the team and hailed the team's hard work.
“This wouldn’t have been possible without us sticking together as a team. I need to thank the Coach and all our staff for their guidance, and believing in us,” Mazumdar added.
The first half was an exciting affair right from the word go, with the first golden chance coming as early as in the second minute of the match. Soon the team's effort finally resulted into a goal through Maheson Singh Tongbram in the 15th minute, as the midfielder made a run into the space in the right flank, and placed shot that over the Nepali custodian Manoj Dahal into the bottom corner of the goal.
The scoreline then remained unchanged for most of the part of the first half but two quick strikes towards the end of the first half meant India went into the dressing room with a three-goal lead.
Taison Singh was fouled near the penalty area as he tried to cut in from the right flank. He sent in a curling free-kick, which was nodded into the goal by Amandeep in the 42nd minute.
Taison again assisted to help India earn a 3-goal cushion. as hre found Sibajit Singh through a square pass who scored with a first-time strike.
In the second half, the Blue Tigers added another to their lead, with Sridarth registering his name to the scoresheet in the 51st minute as a powerful shot by Taison from distance was not collected by the Nepal keeper and Sridarth tapped the ball home on the follow up.
Himanshu Jangra came off the bench at half-time to score the team's fifth goal of the match making it 7 goals with two hat-tricks in the championship, and bagging the highest scorer award.
This time too, Taison was the provider as he won the ball off the Nepal defence after some excellent pressing. He then proceeded to race past the defence and crossed the ball to Himanshu, who leapt and headed the ball home in the 65th minute.
Sridarth added his second of the match to make it sixth of the match for India. The striker was played in by Shubho with a delightful through-ball and Sridarth showed calmly went around the keeper and slotted the ball home into the empty net.
He then completed his hat-trick with India's seventh and last goal of the game in the 80th minute as he latched on to a fine, low cross from Himanshu and placed it past the goalkeeper.
Bibiano Fernandes' side is now set to focus on the AFC U-16 Championships 2020 qualifiers, scheduled to take place from September 18-22, 2019. The Indians have been drawn in Group B and will face hosts Uzbekistan, Bahrain and Turkmenistan.