SAFF U-19 Championship
India top group to storm into SAFF U-19 semi-finals
25 Sep 2023

India 2 (Gwgwmsar Goyary 36’, Ricky Meetei 64’)
Bhutan 1 (Jigme Namgyel 20’)

Akhil Rawat
AIFF Media Team

KATHMANDU, NEPAL: India secured their spot in the SAFF U19 Championship semi-finals, with a 2-1 victory over Bhutan 2-1 at the Dasharath Stadium in Kathmandu, Nepal, on Monday, September 25.

The Teams were locked 1-1 at half-time. Jigme Namgyel gave Bhutan the lead in the 20th minute, but India bounced back with goals from Gwgwmsar Goyary and Ricky Meetei.

India went into the match with the upper hand in Group B, having defeated Bangladesh 3-0. To add to that, Bhutan’s 4-3 victory against Bangladesh meant that India needed only a draw to secure the top spot in the group. In the penultimate round, India will cross swords with hosts and Group A runners-up Nepal on Wednesday, September 27, 2023. The kick-off is at 5.15 p.m.  

A tight contest ensued in the middle of the park as the two sides looked to gain control of the game. India looked to overload the wings, as Raja Harijan sent searching aerial through balls onto the flanks.

Against the run of play, it was Bhutan who took the lead through Jigme Namgyel, whose cross from the right flank fooled everyone, as it crept into the top corner.

India, for their part, managed to create some confusion inside the Bhutan penalty box, as they sent aerial through balls, aiming for their rotating target man. Kelvin Singh Taorem went through early on, only to collide with Bhutan keeper Penjor Gyeltshen, as the ball rolled wide.

Taorem had another opportunity in the 36th minute when a cross from the left by Naoba Meitei was flicked on by the former, but it was saved from point-blank range by Gyeltshen.

The Blue Colts finally had their equaliser almost immediately, when a similar aerial through ball was fed into the box, where it bounced over the keeper before Gwgwmsar Goyary hustled his way in and nodded it into an empty net.

India started on the front foot in the second half and took the lead in the 64th minute with a corner that was clearly worked out in training. Yash Chikro, instead of looping the corner into the box, sent a grounded drive to the top of the box, where an unmarked Ricky Meetei pounced on the opportunity and side-footed it into the bottom corner with an accurate shot.

Despite having the lead, India never looked like they wanted to sit on their advantage and play out the match. They continued to take the attack into the rival box and even pressed high when Bhutan had the ball.

Raja Harijan played a crucial role, sitting deep to break up the Bhutan attacks in midfield. The Blue Colts ended the group stage with six points, and have secured their spot in the semi-finals, as the top team in Group B.

India: Lionel Daryl Rymmei (GK) (C); Ricky Meetei, Jahangir Ahmad Shagoo, Thomas Kanamootil Cherian, Aula Siba Prasad; Raja Harijan, Arjun Singh Oinam (Thumsol Tongsin 81’), Kelvin Singh Taorem (Sahil Khurshid 46’); Naoba Meitei, Yash Chikro (Manglenthang Kipgen 81’), Gwgwmsar Goyary (Dinesh Singh 90’).

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