Kalyani (West Bengal), Aug 31 : A convincing India U-15 team thrashed Nepal 7-0 to lift the SAFF U-15 title at the Kalyani Stadium here on Saturday. Striker Sridarth Nongmeikapam scored a hat-trick while Maheson Singh, Amandeep, Sibajit Singh and Himanshu Jangra scored one goal apiece.
In the process, the Bibiano Fernandes-coached side scored 28 goals without having conceded any in the five matches they played in the tournament, including the final.
The victory also meant that India are now the most successful team in the tournament’s history — winning the title for a record third time after previous wins in 2013 and 2017, both of which came in Nepal.
“I would like to thank each one of my support staff, the AIFF management and SAI for their support,” Bibiano said at the post-match press conference.
“We are happy to be champions. We came here with an aim, and we have achieved it. This was a preparation for the AFC qualifiers and it makes us confident about what we can achieve,” he added.
Captain Anish Majumdar dedicated the victory to “team effort.”
“This wouldn’t have been possible without us sticking together as a team. I need to thank the coach and all our staff for their guidance, and for believing in us,” Mazumdar said.
India took the lead through Maheson in the 15th minute when the midfielder ran into open space on the right flank and made the most of it with an excellent shot that sailed over the head of Nepal goalkeeper Manoj Dahal and nestled into the bottom corner of the net.
India scored two quick goals towards the end of the first half to head into the break with a three-goal advantage. Taison Singh, who was a livewire down the right flank, was fouled near the penalty area. He curled in the resulting free-kick which was turned into the goal with a deft header by Amandeep in the 42nd minute.
Taison provided yet another assist to help India extend their lead. Beating his marker, he squared the ball to an onrushing Sibajit Singh, who scored with a first-time shot.
After the breather, the Indian side was quick to add to its lead, with Sridarth adding his name to the scoresheet with a poacher’s goal in the 51st minute. Taison fired in a powerful shot from distance that was not collected by the Nepal keeper and Sridarth was on hand to follow up and tap the ball home.
Himanshu Jangra, who scored a hat-trick in each of India’s two previous matches against Bhutan and Bangladesh, came off the bench at half-time and scored his team’s fifth goal — thus recording his seventh goal of the championship to bag the topscorer award.
India added to their tally with 15 minutes left on the clock with Sridarth netting his second goal. In the 80th minute, Sridarth completed his hat-trick after he latched on to a low cross from Himanshu and placed it past the goalkeeper.
Next up for India is the 2020 AFC U-16 Championships qualifiers, scheduled to take place from September 18. India have been drawn in Group B with hosts Uzbekistan, Bahrain and Turkmenistan.