Young Lallianzuala shines as India enter semis of SAFF Cup
Chhangte Lallianzuala became the youngest goal scorer for India as the hosts bounced back from a goal down to beat Nepal 4-1 in their final group match, advancing to the semifinal of the South Asian Football Federation Cup, here on Sunday.
Apart from India, Sri Lanka is the other side from the Group A to qualify for the last-four stage.
India remained unbeaten in their group engagements, having beaten Sri Lanka 2-0 in the opening fixture.
18-year-old Lallianzuala’s (81st, 90th minute) twin strikes came in the final 10 minutes of the match after Rowlin Borges (26th minute) and skipper Sunil Chhetri found the target for India. However, India were in for a shock when Nepal took the lead as early as in the third minute of the match through Bimal Magar’s strike.
Contrary to the result, it was Nepal which started on a positive note as Magar handed his side the lead in the third minute.
Rohit Chand’s ball forward saw Nawayug Shrestha get beyond Augustin Fernandes. Shrestha’s shot comes off the far post and lands in front of Magar who slotted the rebound into an empty net to stun the Indians.
In the 14th minute Magar had a another shot on target but a feeble one. In the first 16 minutes, Nepal were the dominant side on display as they had four shots on target against none by India.
Anjan Bisht then had a shot on target from range but it was easily collected by Subrata Paul in front of Indian goal.
It took India 20 minutes to get their first shot at the goal through Holicharan Narzary, whose try from outside the box went straight into the hands of Nepal goalie Kiran Chemzong.
In the next minute, Sanju Pradhan’s shot went just inches wide. But India drew level in the 26th minute when Borges scored from a set piece. Narayan Das’ free-kick from the left bounces inside the box and found Borges who lashed it in to score the equaliser.
The two teams went into the breather locked at 1-1. Both India and Nepal made one substitution each in the second half. While Magar was replaced by Jagjit Shrestha, India brought in Lallianzuala in place of Pradhan.
But it was again Nepal who had the first shy at the goal in the second half when Paul brilliantly kept away Nawayug Shrestha’s shot.
Nepal made another substitution in the 57th minute, brining in Yogesh Gurung in place of Bishal Rai.
Soon Paul once again came to India’s rescue when he denied Hema Gurung.
India finally took the lead in the 68th minute through its inspirational skipper Chhetri. The move started with Bikash Jairu who played it forward for Narzary, whose cross found out Chhetri and the Indian skipper then dodged past Jitendran Karki with a fine first touch to place the ball inside the net with his right foot to make it 2-1 in favour of the hosts.
Soon India had another shot at goal when Lallianzuala’s shot was cleared from the goalline by Aditya Chaudhari.
With the forwardline struggling to convert chances into goals, India coach Stepehen Constantine brought in in-form Jeje Lalpekhlua in place Chhetri in the 72minute.
India custodian Paul had a fine day in office as he made another good save to deny Anil Gurung.
Soon after coming into action, Lalpekhlua tested Nepal goalie Chemzong with a long distance shot.
Lallianzuala, playing only his second international match, made it 3-1 for India in the 81st minute with a left footed shot from the edge of the box goes into the far corner of the Nepal goal. Minutes later, Narzary had a chance as he got on the end of a pass from Jairu but his shot was kept out by Chemzong.