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Sport 'Calm Apuia and threatening crosses' - What we learnt from India’s win over Maldives in SAFF Championships

09:50  14 october  2021
09:50  14 october  2021 Source:   goal.com

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The Indian men’ s football team need a win on Wednesday to make the final of the SAFF Championship 2021 as they take on Maldives , who can qualify with just a draw. India drew their first two matches of the tournament against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka after which they needed a win against Nepal in the third match to stay in the tournament. The Blue Tigers did edge out Nepal to boost their chances of making the final. They now need a victory over Maldives to secure their berth in the final.

Goal from Manvir Singh and a second-half brace from the ever-reliable skipper Sunil Chhetri propelled India to a 3-1 win over Maldives in their final group stage game of the 2021 SAFF Championship and sealed their spot in the final of the competition. India , who entered the game needing all three points, broke the deadlock on 33 minutes as Manvir Singh fired an unstoppable shot into the The 37-year-old struck a first-time shot past the Maldives shot-stopper after Manvir had played an Apuia cross towards the Indian captain with his chest. Chhetri then sealed India ' s victory with another goal nine minutes.

India topped the table at the end of four matches in the ongoing SAFF Championships 2021 as they amassed eight points and booked a berth in the final. On Wednesday, they scored three goals against Maldives, the reigning champions who were playing on home soil, in what was a must-win tie.

The Blue Tigers haven’t been at their best in the competition as they struggled to find the back of the net with the strikers being guilty of misfiring in the first three games. However, that wasn’t the case against Maldives as India produced their best display, especially in attack, to progress into the final.

Obviously, there are several talking points from the game however, herein we bring forth the three more important ones:

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Sunil Chhetri once again had to produce the goods for India as they rallied around the skipper to beat Maldives 3-1 in the SAFF Championship semi-final on Wednesday. Chhetri scored a brace as 10-man India overcame a stiff challenge from the defending champions and set up Saturday' s final against Nepal. Chhetri took his goals tally to 79 from 124 appearances in international football to grab joint-sixth position on the all-time list with Zambia' s Godfrey Chitalu, who also has the same number of goals from 111 matches.

With the win over Maldives , India saved themselves from crashing out of reckoning for the final of the regional tournament, which would have been the country' s worst result in recent memory. This will be 12th final appearance for India . India dominated the match throughout and Chhetri almost gave Just second before half time, Ashfaq scored from a penalty to put Maldives back on level terms. India head coach Igor Stimac brought in nippy winger Udanta Singh in the 51st minute in place of Brandon Fernandes. Soon after, in the 62nd minute, India took the lead. An Apuia cross was chested down

India’s defence doesn’t inspire confidence

In the opening 31 minutes, three of the four defenders found their name in the referee’s book. In fact, one of them could possibly have been shown a red card as well for his reckless foul. Ali Ashfaq had two glorious chances in the opening half hour wherein, had he been more aware about his team-mates’ movement, a square pass would have resulted in two goals for the home side. It was thanks to his poor decision-making that India didn't concede. When tracking, the defenders lost their man regularly and on several occasions were guilty of passing the ball straight to the opposition, a trait which has been witnessed on countless occasions at SAFF Championships.

Not to forget the penalty awarded for the needless foul. Coach Igor Stimac did bring on a substitute at the back who also could have picked a booking, had the referee not being more lenient.

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India take on Maldives on the final day of the SAFF Championship 2021 league stage. While the Blue Tigers need a win to leapfrog second-placed Nepal to sneak into the final, a draw will be enough for Maldives to enter the SAFF Championship 2021 final. Maldives currently sit at the top of the SAFF Championship 2021 standings with 6 points from 3 matches, equal on points with Nepal, but the hosts prevail on a solitary difference in goal difference between the two teams. Ali Suzain' s side started their SAFF Championship 2021 campaign with a disappointing defeat to Nepal in front of their home fans.

With the win over Maldives , India saved themselves from crashing out of reckoning for the final of the regional tournament, which would have been the country' s worst result in recent memory. This will be 12th final appearance for India . India dominated the match throughout and Chhetri almost gave India the lead in the 27th minute but his header off a Brandon Fernandes An Apuia cross was chested down by Manvir for Chhetri to blast into the back of the Maldives net. The Indian captain scored his second goal of the day with a looping header that crashed into the opposition net in the 71st minute.

Apuia - ability plus confidence personified

One of the major criticisms of this Indian side is that they don’t have enough players who can control the ball or even play a proper forward pass with confidence. Sideways passing has been the dish which has been served to the Indian fans. In what was his fourth start for the Indian team, Lalengmawia produced a sublime display where he always provided an outlet for his team-mates to receive a pass. The 20-year-old has shown maturity and his ability to carry the ball, switch play at will make him stand out from among the rest of his peers in the middle of the park.

Sunil Chhetri India Maldives SAFF Championship 2021 © Provided by Goal Sunil Chhetri India Maldives SAFF Championship 2021

Better Crossing

A significant change in India’s attacking ploy against Maldives was that there were better quality crosses whipped in, especially from the right. Pritam Kotal, apart from giving away the penalty, made some good overlapping runs down the right - which we last saw him do back at Mohun Bagan under Sanjoy Sen when they won the I-League. One of his deliveries saw Sunil Chhetri score his second of the evening. Mohammed Yasir has certainly been India’s best crosser in the competition and his coordination with Kotal helped India look more threatening when going forward.

Manvir Singh certainly deserves a mention for the fantastic finish as he got on the end of a Brandon Fernandes pass. Also, Chhetri has four goals in the tournament with two goals against Maldives. On another day, he could have had a hat-trick having struck the crossbar in the first half. In fact, he has scored eight goals in six matches against Maldives in his career.

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This is interesting!