India secured the championship title by triumphing over Bangladesh with a 2-0 victory in the final match of the SAFF U-16 Championship 2023, which took place on September 10 at the Changlimithang Stadium in Thimphu, Bhutan.
Blue Colts Clinch Top Spot in Group A
Under the guidance of head coach Ishfaq Ahmed, the Blue Colts claimed the top position in Group A. They secured hard-fought 1-0 victories against Bangladesh and Nepal, followed by a commanding performance that saw them net eight goals against the Maldives in the semifinals. Remarkably, the team achieved this remarkable feat without allowing a single goal against them throughout the entire tournament.
The Early Breakthrough
India’s initial breakthrough came early, just eight minutes into the match. Levis Zangminlun provided an incisive through ball to forward Bharat Lairenjam, who swiftly invaded the space ahead and slotted the ball between the legs of Bangladesh goalkeeper Mohammad Nahidul Islam to score.
Bangladesh’s Response and Missed Opportunity
Bangladesh responded to India’s goal and got a chance to equalise but Mohammed Mursed Ali made an unfortunate mistake. The forward beat the offside trap and took control of a through ball from Bangladesh captain Nazmul Huda Faysal. However, India goalkeeper Suraj Singh swiftly charged forward to cut down the angle, causing Ali to miss the target.
India’s Dominance in the First Half
Throughout the first half, Levis Lairenjam and India’s captain, Mate Ngamgouhou, consistently pressured the Bangladeshi defence, creating multiple scoring opportunities. In the 34th minute, a particularly promising chance materialised. A long ball was lofted towards the Bangladesh penalty area, prompting Indian forward Mohammad Arbash to give chase. Recognising that Bangladeshi goalkeeper Nahidul Islam had ventured off his line to attempt a clearance, Arbash seized the moment. He skillfully attempted to head the ball over the onrushing keeper. However, Islam was quick to react, successfully punching the ball out of harm’s way and preserving the 1-0 scoreline as the teams entered halftime.
Sealing the Victory with Style
India started the second half with the same intensity. Their relentless search for another goal bore fruit in the 74th minute with a sublime strike. Samson Ahongshangbam initiated a promising move down the left wing before expertly switching play to send the ball to Levis Zangminlun on the opposite flank. Engaging in a swift one-two pass with Vishal Yadav, Zangminlun outsmarted his defender to find himself in open space. Taking a moment to set himself, he then unleashed a devastating left-footed strike that sailed into the back of the net, doubling India’s advantage.
Key takeaways for competitive examinations
- India Under-17 Head coach: Ishfaq Ahmed
- Best Goalkeeper of SAFF U16 Championship: Suraj Singh
- Most Valuable Player (MVP) & Highest Scorer of SAFF U16 Championship : Mohammed Arbash