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India 1 (5) -1 (4) Kuwait: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu PENALTY heroics guide Blue Tigers to record NINTH SAFF trophy

India 1 (5) -1 (4) Kuwait: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu PENALTY heroics guide Blue Tigers to record NINTH SAFF trophy

Sunil Chhetri led Blue Tigers triumphed in the SAFF Championship 2023 final, clinching victory with a 5-4 penalty shootout against Kuwait. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu's decisive save sealed the win for coach Igor Stimac's squad.

India vs Kuwait: In the SAFF Championship 2023 final , Sunil Chhetri and co emerged victorious with a 5-4 penalty shootout win against Kuwait. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu made a crucial save to secure the win for Igor Stimac’s side. Kuwait’s Shabaib Alkhaldi opened the scoring in the 13th minute by tapping the ball into the goal. However, the Indian Football Team equalized in the 38th minute when Lallianzuala Chhangte fired in Sahal Abdul Samad’s squared ball.

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Gurpreet Singh Sandhu’s decisive save secured India’s ninth SAFF Championship title, reaffirming their regional dominance. The match ended 1-1 after 120 minutes, with Kuwait taking an early lead through Shabaib Al-Khaldi and Lallianzuala Chhangte equalizing for India. Igor Stimac made history as the first foreign head coach to win consecutive SAFF Championship titles.

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This victory marked India’s first back-to-back wins against two West Asian countries, following their triumph over Lebanon in the semi-finals. The game started cautiously, with both teams focusing on ball retention and building from the defense. India had the first shot on target, but Chhangte’s header from a Mishra cross lacked power and was easily saved by Marzouq.

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Kuwait took the lead through a well-executed attacking play in the final third. Al-Faneeni passed the ball to Al-Bloushi, who crossed it for an unmarked Al-Khaldi to score.

Despite the deafening cheers of the crowd, India nearly equalized immediately. Chhangte’s powerful shot was saved by Marzouq, and Chhetri’s attempt from the rebound was cleared by Hajiah.

This chance ignited India’s attack, leading to an intense offensive display. However, both teams faced defensive setbacks with Al-Enezi and Ali being substituted due to injuries. Mehtab Singh replaced the injured Ali.\

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India responded with an even smoother goal for the equalizer. Kuruniyan had time on the ball on the left, finding Chhetri, who then played a first-time pass to set up Sahal Abdul Samad’s run into the box. Sahal laid the ball across the goal for Chhangte, who tapped it in with an open net.

Gurpreet, the hero of the semi-final, once again came to India’s rescue with a crucial save, diving low to push away Abdullah’s shot at his near post.

In response, Kuwait had two dangerous moments. Mahesh played a pass to Rohit Kumar, whose cross narrowly missed Chhetri. Later, Chhangte found Udanta in the box, but he slipped before Chhetri had a chance, only to shoot over the goal.

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The missed opportunity led to the SAFF Championship Final going into extra time, a situation that has occurred five times in the tournament’s history. India faced pressure in the early stages of extra time, but solid defensive blocks from Mahesh Singh and Jhingan prevented any threats on Gurpreet’s goal.

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The match ultimately went to a nerve-wracking penalty shootout, the second consecutive one for India in the 2023 SAFF Championship, following their victory against Lebanon.

Chhetri, Jhingan, Chhangte, and Subhasish successfully converted their penalties for India, while Al-Otaibi, Al-Dhefeery, Mahran, and Al-Khaldi scored for Kuwait. Udanta was the only Indian player who missed his penalty, sending the ball over the crossbar, while Abdullah from Kuwait hit the woodwork.

The hero of the night was India’s goalkeeper Gurpreet, who made the decisive save in the final penalty taken by Kuwait’s captain Haijah, securing India their ninth SAFF Championship title.

India XI
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Nikhil Poojary, Sandesh Jhingan, Anwar Ali, Akash Mishra, Jeakson Singh, Anirudh Thapa, Sahal Abdul Samad, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Sunil Chhetri, Ashique Kuruniyan

Kuwait XI
Abdulrahman Marzouq, Khaled Hajiah, Hasan Alanezi, Abdullah Albloushi, Sultan Alenezi, Ahmad Afnj Aldhefeery, Mohammad Abdullah, Shabaib Alkhaldi, Redha Abujabarah, Hamad Alqallaf, Mobarak Alfaneeni

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