India beat Kuwait in penalty shootout to win SAFF Championships title for 9th time

Bengaluru: Hosts India clinched the SAFF Championships title for the ninth time after beating Kuwait 5-4 in a tense penalty shootout after both sides were deadlocked 1-1 in 120 minutes in the summit clash here on Tuesday.

After five rounds of penalty kicks the scoreline remained 4-4 and sudden death rule was applied.

Mahesh Naorem scored but a diving India goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu saved Khaled Hajiah’s shot to hand victory the home side.

In the regulation time, Shabaib Al Khaldi had put Kuwait in the lead in the 14th minute before Lallianzuala Chhangte equalised in the 39th minute.

Defending champion India and Kuwait had also played out a 1-1 draw in their last group match.

This was the second time India won in the penalty shootout. They had made it to Tuesday’s summit clash after beating Lebanon 4-2 in penalty shootout in the semifinal on July 1. Sandhu had also made a crucial save in the shootout then.

For India, captain Sunil Chhetri, Sandesh Jhingan, Chhangte, Subasish Bose and Mahesh converted while Udanta Singh missed.

In 14th minute, Mobarak Al Faneeni released Abullah Al Bloushi on the left wing with a deft pass. Al Bloushi found Shabaib Al Khaldi inside the box with an accurate cross which the latter slotted past India custodian Sandhu to give Kuwait 1-0 lead.

India could have levelled the scores within a minute but Kuwait goalkeeper Abdul Rahman blocked Chhangte’s long ranger.

In 39th minute, after a lovely exchange of passes between Sahal Abdul Samad and captain Chhetri, the latter found an unmarked Chhangte deep inside the box. Chhangte, India’s energetic No. 12, had little trouble in beating Abdul Rahman to find the equaliser.

Chhangte was named AIFF Men’s Player of the Year on Tuesday.