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India crowned champions at SAFF U-15 Championships after beating Nepal

Written by: Uttiyo Sarkar

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The Junior Colts came from behind to edge out the hosts after an impressive second half showing.

India came back from a goal down to defeat Nepal 2-1 in the Final of the SAFF U-15 Championships earlier today, with second half strikes from Lalrokima and captain Vikram Pratap Singh helping the Junior Tigers lift the trophy at the ANFA Complex in Nepal.

The two early favorites for the tournament came into the game with much confidence, with the Tigers having the upper hand due to their previous win against Nepal in the group stages. The Gorkhas came into the match with an unchanged side, while India brought in Samir Kerketta in defense. In front of a jam-packed crowd at the ANFA Complex, Nepal started the match on the front foot immediately with a decent strike on goal by Randeep Paudel and things were looking quite the opposite of their previous encounter.

The Gorkhas continued their domination of possession as Darshan Gurung's ambitious effort almost crept into the net but didn't, much to the relief of India's keeper Jongte. India also created some chances later on as a free-kick from Givson Singh in the 8th minute fell into the path of Thoiba Singh, whose shot went straight to the hands of Bishal Sunar. Later on, in the 13th minute, Ravi Bahadur Rana's powerful free-kick was scuffled by Sunar, but nobody could capitalize for the Tigers. India found another big opportunity from the corresponding corner as some defensive lapses on Nepal's side helped the ball find its way to defender Harpreet Singh, who failed to keep the shot on goal despite being completely unmarked.

Nepal 1-2 India SAFF U-15 Championships Final Highlights

Both sides were a bit cautious in this match due to its magnitude and gambled with some long shots. Darshan Gurung's attempt whiskering past the goal in the 23rd minute. But sadly, Gurung was injured later on and Nepal's star man was replaced by Karlosh Backhariya. Things were looking pretty even, but suddenly Nepal broke through with a devastating counter-attack and were awarded a penalty when Ranjan Poon was brought down inside the box. Birjesh Chaudhary calmly put the ball into the back of the net to give the hosts the lead in the 41st minute.

India looked shaken and wanted to give a stern reply before the end of the half and almost did so when Sunar failed to stop Ricky John's header which looked destined to head to the goal, before Sanjib Aryal's stunning goal-line clearance preserved the lead for Nepal, despite protests from the Tigers starting something otherwise as the half ended in controversial fashion.

The Gorkhas attempted to start the second half the same way they did in the first. An impressive move between Ranjan Poon and Birjesh Chaudhary was created but the latter's shot went sailing over the bar. India gained some momentum when the ineffective Ravi Bahadur Rana was replaced by the electric Lalrokima. They started to threaten on the attack as Bekey Oram's low shot was saved well by Sunar in the 51st minute. Minutes later, Givson Singh found some space in midfield but failed to keep his shot on target.

However, free-kick specialist Givson showed his ability in the 56th minute when he received a set-piece 40 yards out from goal. He struck an insane shot which rattled the top of the bar and went out of play. A few minutes later in the 58th minute, Lalrokima wiggled past the Nepali defense and struck a wonderful shot which hit the post but thankfully went in goal to equalize the game for the Tigers.

Both teams looked a bit tired after the hour mark, but the Indian side seemed to show more intent in going for the winner as they created some half chances. The match was getting intense as fans watched on from rooftops and nearby houses' windows with much intent.

But, their hearts were about to be broken as captain Vikram Pratap Singh finally seemed to have come alive with a moment of sheer brilliance as he moved past defenders and hit a beautiful shot from his weaker foot which blasted into the bottom left corner and gave the Tigers the lead in the 74th minute. Nepal seemed to be down and out from this point and India aimed to capitalize on their vulnerability after the goal.

India had the chance to extend their lead three minutes later when Lalrokima terrorized Nepal's defense with his tricky movement and put in a glorious ball into the middle of the box, but nobody could clutch onto it. Things started to heat up between the two young sides towards the end of the game as Randeep Paudel and Vikram Pratap Singh were booked later on. Givson continued his impressive work at set-pieces when his curling free-kick almost crept into the goal in the 81st minute.

The Blue Tigers had a big chance to kill off the game when Vikram Pratap Singh saw himself through on goal but failed to dink the ball past the charging Sunar, who kept his team in it with an important save. But, the Gorkhas had run out of steam and failed to penetrate India's defense as the Tigers cruised to victory.

India skipper Vikram Pratap Singh has been awarded the best player of the tournament. 

Published: Sun Aug 27, 2017 09:43 PM IST

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