Coach Biby’s India storm into SAFF U-19 Finals
On Wednesday, September 27, 2023, at the Dashrath Stadium in Kathmandu, Nepal, Kipgen, a 66th minute replacement for skipper Ishaan Shishodia, displayed remarkable poise to carry India to the final of the SAFF U19 Championship with a crucial strike in the fifth and final shot of the tie-breaker.
After a 1-1 draw in regulation time, as the score stood 2-2 in the penalty shootout, Kipgen was called to go for the final shot and the jam-packed stands were rooting for the home side, the Indian youngster showed no sign of nerve and converted coolly to set up the Blue Colts’ summit clash against Pakistan on Saturday, September 30, 2023. Pakistan had earlier defeated Bhutan 6-5 on penalties in the first semi-finals.
Apart from Kipgen, the other two scorers in the shoot-out were Arjun Singh Oinam and Gwgwmsar Goyary.
India have been putting up dominating performances throughout the tournament. In the group stages, they brushed aside the challenges of Bangladesh and Bhutan to qualify for the knockout stages. However, the most tricky opponents, Nepal, of the competition awaited them in the last four. Nepal were not only playing in familiar conditions but also had the support of a partisan crowd. However, the Indian team showed a lot of character and determination to overcome the Nepal test.
Nepal started the match on a positive note but it was India who went into the lead in the first half. India were playing long balls into the box from the outset and their strategy paid off in the 25th minute. Ricky Meetei Haobam floated in a ball from the deep as the Indian forwards went into an aerial tussle with the Nepal defenders. The ball eventually came loose before Sahil Khurshid pounced on it and hit a powerful left-footer that beat the Nepal goalkeeper.
Nepal started the second half with an attacking mindset as they created the first opportunity in the 47th minute. Substitute Lachhu Thapa released Niranjan Dhami but his shot hit the woodwork after the forward did well to make space for himself to shoot.
At the other end, the woodwork also denied India a chance to extend their lead. In the 68th minute, Manglenthang Kipgen’s brilliant long ranger hit the crosspiece.
Nepal, though, finally levelled the score in the 74th minute. Samir Tamang headed home a Dipak Thapa Magar cross from the right after getting the better of the defender Thomas Kanamoottil Cherian.
India XI: Lionel Daryl Rymmei (GK), Ishaan Shishodia (Manglenthang Kipgen 62′), Ricky Meetei Haobam, Manabir Basumatary (Surajkumar Singh Ngangbam 72′), Raja Harijan, Arjun Singh Oinam, Gwgwmsar Goyary, Naoba Meitei Pangambam, Sahil Khurshid (Dinesh Singh Soubam 72′), A Siba Prasad, Thomas Kanamoottil Cherian.