Sunil Chhetri, Lionel Messi Photograph:( ANI )
India dominated possession in the first-half but they failed to score any goal
Indian football captain Sunil Chhetri equalled Lionel Messi with his 80th international strike against Nepal in the final clash of SAFF Championship on Saturday (October 16). During the match that India won 3-0 for a record eighth title, Chhetri opened the scoring in the second half for Blue Tigers. It was his fifth goal in as many outings during this campaign to finish at the top of the scoring chart.
Now, the 37-year-old Chhetri has equalled Messi, becoming the second-highest goal-scorer in international football among active players. For India, Chhetri (49th minute), Suresh Singh (50th) and Sahal Abdul Samad (90th) were the goal scorers in this historic game.
India's sports minister Anurag Thakur congratulated Chhetri for achieving the feat. Taking to his official Twitter handle, Thakur wrote, "INDIA wins its 8th #SAFFChampionships2021 Title @chetrisunil11 scripts history as he equals Lionel Messi’s record of making 80 goals."
SAFF Championship as a player ✅— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) October 16, 2021
SAFF Championship as a coach ✅
Just @chetrisunil11 showing his appreciation for former #BlueTigers 🐯 captain & current Assistant Coach Shanmugam Venkatesh 🙌#INDNEP ⚔️ #SAFFChampionship2021 🏆 #BackTheBlue 💙 #IndianFootball ⚽ pic.twitter.com/wQcksh2d7L
India dominated possession in the first half but they failed to score any goal. However, captain Chhetri put India ahead minutes into the second half and even before Nepal could settle down, Suresh made it 2-0.
Sahal made it 3-0 when he tricked a few defenders after receiving the ball on the left flank at the stroke of the final whistle.
The final was the 12th for India in 13 editions, which also shows their domination in this regional tournament.
This is the Indian football team's first title triumph under head coach Igor Stimac, who faced criticism in recent times for his side's inability to win enough games.
Stimac also became the third foreign coach after Jiri Pesek (1993) and Stephen Constantine (2015) to clinch the title with the Indian team.