Ill-Tempered SAFF Cup Match: India and Kuwait Draw 1-1 as Coach Stimac Receives Red Card

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India’s Sunil Chhetri Scores First Goal but Late Kuwait Equalizer Forces Draw, Indian Team Clinches Second Place in SAFF Cup Group.

Sunil Chhetri Nets his 92nd International Goal, Adding to Remarkable Scoring Record. (Photo: PTI)

In the final group stage match of the SAFF Cup held at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bangalore on Tuesday, India faced a tough battle and settled for a 1-1 draw.

The game was marred by a heated atmosphere, resulting in three red cards being shown. Two players from each team received red cards, while India’s head coach Igor Stimac was also sent off.

India initially took the lead late in the first half with an impressive side volley from captain Sunil Chhetri. However, their hopes of securing a victory were dashed when they conceded a late goal in stoppage time.

A low cross from the right side deflected off defender Anwar Ali, spoiling India’s chances of securing a win. This marked the first goal India had conceded in nine matches.

With the draw, both India and Kuwait ended up with seven points in Group A. However, Kuwait secured the top spot in the group due to a better goal average.

In the upcoming semifinal, India will face Lebanon, while Kuwait will take on either Bangladesh or Maldives. Lebanon currently holds the 99th position in the FIFA rankings, ranking higher than India.

Despite the result, India showcased their attacking prowess, particularly through organized wing play. In the sixth minute, the Blue Tigers came close to taking the lead, but Chhetri narrowly missed connecting with a cross from Akash Mishra.

Kuwait also had their opportunities, with Shadab Al Khaldi’s powerful shot from just outside the box narrowly sailing over the bar in the 20th minute.

India gradually took control of the match and had a chance to score in the 35th minute, but Anwar Ali’s header off an Anirudh Thapa corner missed the target.

In injury time, Thapa delivered a low corner from the right, and Sunil Chhetri executed a magnificent tumbling volley to beat Kuwait’s goalkeeper Abdul Rahman, increasing India’s lead to 1-0. Chhetri’s goal marked his fifth in the tournament and his 24th overall in 26 SAFF championship matches.

With a 1-0 lead, India continued to press in the second half but suffered a setback as head coach Igor Stimac received a red card, his second in the tournament.

Stimac engaged in a heated argument after Sahal Abdul Samad was pushed, with the altercation starting when Samad nearly struck a Kuwait player with a high boot. India’s forward Rahim Ali defended Samad and forcefully pushed the Kuwait player to the ground.

As a result, Stimac was shown the red card, having previously received one in the match against Pakistan for interrupting their player during a throw-in.

Despite the unsatisfactory end to the match, India will look to regroup and deliver a strong performance against Lebanon on July 1.

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Toshika Chauhan

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