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National Roundup

Coach Biby’s India U-19 crowned SAFF Champions

After a wait-and-see approach for the first 45 minutes, the Blue Colts decided to crack the whip in the second session and emerged the SAFF Men’s U19 champions with a vigorous 3-0 triumph over Pakistan at the Dashrath Stadium in Kathmandu on Saturday, September 30, 2023.

It was India’s eighth youth title in the SAFF championships, a clear testimony to their regional supremacy.

In a stunning display of talent and composure, substitute Manglenthang Kipgen once again emerged as the hero for the Indians. Following his nerve-wracking winning penalty strike against hosts Nepal in the semi-final on Wednesday, Kipgen continued to shine on the grand stage as he scored the first two goals to literally slam the doors on Pakistan’s ambitions. He arguably had no competitor in sight when he was awarded the Most Valuable Player of the Tournament.

Kipgen had a role to play in the third goal, too, as his clever chip resulted in Gwgwmsar Goyary scoring the third goal in the add-on time, thus sealing Pakistan’s fate in the tie, who were by then reduced to a 10-man team.

What also made this achievement all the more remarkable is that for the vast majority of the Indian squad, this SAFF U-19 Championship, marked their first international tournament representing the nation.

India took control of the game, dictating the tempo with their passes and making effective use of the available space. Their dominance was evident right from the start, as they crafted an early chance. Unfortunately, Khurshid couldn’t capitalise on a cross, missing a golden opportunity to put India ahead.

Nonetheless, their assertive play signalled a promising turn of events and they ultimately took the lead in the 64th minute. The pivotal moment unfolded with Kipgen delivering a breathtaking goal from just beyond the box.

The sequence began with Kipgen’s attempt to set up a teammate within the box, only to have the pass blocked by Muhammad Azan. However, Kipgen seized the rebound. With precision and finesse, he unleashed a curling shot with his right foot that left the Pakistan defence in awe, propelling India into the lead.

In the 85th minute, Kipgen located a gap in Pakistan’s defensive wall and delivered a beautifully curled free-kick. What added to the spectacle was the clever move from another India substitute, Kelvin Singh Taorem, who made a run in front of the Pakistan defence. Pakistan goalkeeper Gul anticipated Taorem would take control of the free-kick, but Taorem exhibited a remarkable presence of mind and allowed the ball to pass through. This unexpected decision left Gul perplexed as the ball found its way into the back of the net and extended India’s lead.

India wrapped up the match in style in the fifth minute of added time when Kipgen’s well-directed cross was headed home by Gwgwmsar Goyary for his third goal in the tournament.

India: Lionel Daryl Rymmei, Ishaan Shishodia, Ricky Meetei Haobam, Manabir Basumatary (Surajkumar Singh Ngangbam 46th minute), Raja Harijan, Gwgwmsar Goyary, Naoba Meitei Pangambam (Kelvin Singh Taorem 81st minute), Sahil Khurshid, A Siba Prasad, Ebindas Yesudasan (Manglenthang Kipgen 46th minute), Thomas Kanamoottil Cherian.

Match Report: AIFF Media

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