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2021 SAFF Championship, Final
  • Sunil Chhetri (49')
  • Suresh Singh Wangjam (50')
  • Sahal Samad (90'+1')

India win 8th SAFF Championship title, Chhetri equals Messi

The Indian team pose after winning the 2021 SAFF Championship. AIFF Media

A 3-0 win over Nepal saw India win their eighth SAFF Championship title on Saturday at Male, Maldives. Goals from Sunil Chhetri (49th minute), Suresh Singh (50th) and Sahal Abdul Samad (90th) were enough to see off their opponents.

The opener was Chhetri's 80th international goal, which draws him level with the great Lionel Messi on the top international goalscorers' chart. It puts him joint-5th highest all-time and joint-2nd highest amongst active players, behind Cristiano Ronaldo.

India dominated possession in the first-half but like they had for much of the early part of the tournament, failed to break the deadlock. In the second half, though, India showed off a ruthless side. Chhetri put India ahead minutes into the second half with a trademark header off a Pritam Kotal cross. Within a couple of minutes, a superb Indian counter attack was finished off by Suresh Singh, who tucked Yasir Mohammed's strike into the corner of the net.

Sahal made it 3-0 when he dribbled past two defenders after receiving the ball on the left flank at the stroke of the final whistle.

Before Sahal's strike, there was a chance for Manvir Singh in the 52nd minute after he was played through, but his left-footed effort was blocked. In the 79th minute, there was great chance for Udanta Singh as he was in the clear to take a crack at goal but Rohit Chand came up with a fine block to deny the Indian winger.

This is the Indian football team's first title triumph under head coach Igor Stimac, who has faced criticism in recent times for his side's inability to win enough games. Stimac becomes the third foreign coach after Jiri Pesek (1993) and Stephen Constantine (2015) to clinch the title with the Indian team.

Having endured a topsy-turvy start to their campaign, 12 time finalists (in 13 editions) India ended it in style against the first-time finalists. Chhetri finished as the tournament's top scorer with 5 goals.