Riding on the wave of the 68th minute penalty success, the Indian football team on Sunday evening, December 11, 2011 defeated Afghanistan 4-0 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi. The scores might suggest a one-sided match but that was hardly the truth; certainly not until Afghanistan gave up after the controversial penalty decision in the second half of the match turned into a goal for India.
For the first 45 minutes and well till the half time of the second session, until the penalty gave India an unfair advantage, it was far from being a one sided affair. The 68th minute changed it all; a contentious penalty and a controversial red-card to goalkeeper and captain Hameedullah Yousufzari by Singapore referee Sukhbir Singh nearly took the sails out of the Lions of Khorasan’s ship.
Till then the Afghans had put all valiant effort to scuttle every goal from India and had run after every opportunity that came their way.
They did try to come back in the match even after the penalty goal that Sunil Chettri scored for India on the second attempt; the first being denied due to intrusion by Nirmal Chettri in the penalty box. But once the score board showed 1-0 in India’s favour, a confident India already tired of the Afghan tactics was hell bent to not let the advantage go.
The last 20 minutes gave India 3 perfect goals, two of which came within two minutes at the 78th and 80th minute. In the injury period India overran the 10 man Afghanistan for one more goal.
The victory was complete 4-0. Afghanistan was decimated, at least on the score board. The Indians had their sixth SAFF title as Chettri and others ran around the stadium to loud cheers from a near 20,000 strong football fans.
The Afghans went emotional, tears rolling down; since they couldn’t script a victory for their war-torn nation. They did rise against the history of SAFF games despite coming as underdogs and ended as finalists but it was never going to be enough.
Sunil Chettri converted the penalty in the 71st. In the next nine minutes, two more came through Clifford Miranda (78th) and Jeje Lalpekhlua (80th). Substitute Sushil Singh struck one more minutes before the injury period would be over to end the game in style for the defending champions.
For India the controversial penalty came when Jeje was fouled on the edge of the box by defender Faisal Safa. An infuriated Afghan goalkeeper Yousufzari pushed the referee. Yousufzari was promptly shown red card. The replaced goalkeeper Bashir Darman couldn’t stop the master striker Sunil Chettri’s deft shot to the left. Chetri was awarded the goal but lack of sportsmanship earned a yellow card for abusing the goalkeeper.
Earlier the Indians had a difficult time keeping pace with a lively Afghanistan. Balal Arezou nearly scored a goal in the very first minute but for Gouramangi Moirangthem who played the unorthodox stopper. Balal ripped apart the India defence in the first half giving India a bad chase for their title. The home team was lucky not to concede at least two goals in the first half and one more before they earned the penalty.
Afghanistan could have been the champions had their game had enough shine. The only thing that the visitors lacked was experience. So wrote Goal.com, “…Savio Medeira’s side were second best for most of the first half and couldn’t deal with the pace of their opposition…”. The result could have been anything had the penalty and red card not came through.
For Sunil Chettri this whole SAFF tournament has been a dream run. Chettri emerged the top scorer with seven goals. For his constant excellent performance he not only became the man of the match in all five matches but was also adjudged the most valuable player of the tournament.
India bagged $50,000 while Afghanistan were richer by $25,000. All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel also announced an additional Rs.1 lakh for the Indian players.
India: Karanjit Singh; Syed Rahim Nabi, Mahesh Gawli, Nirmal Chettri, Gouramangi Moirangthem; Clifford Miranda (Lalrindika Ralte, Climax Lawrence, Rocus Lamare 90+), Anthony Pereira (Steven Dias, 72); Sunil Chhetri (Sushil Singh, 84) and Jeje Lalepkhlua
Afghanistan: Hameedullah Yousufzari; Faisal Safa, Haroon Fakhrudin, Mohammad Esrafil, Yousef Mashriqi; Ata Yamir Ali, Djelaludin Sharityar, Ghulam Hazrat Abdul, Moqadar Faizullah; Belal Arezou and Sanjar Ahmadi (Masood Hashmi, 75)