The Indian men’s football team showcased their dominance over arch-rivals Pakistan in the opening game of the SAFF Championship 2023. They cruised to a 4-0 win, overwhelming their hapless opponents’ defence in Bengaluru.
Leading from the front, Indian captain Sunil Chhetri scored a hattrick with goals in the 10th, 16th, and 73rd minutes. Udanta Singh Kumam added another in the 81st minute.This result marked India’s seventh consecutive clean sheet against their traditional rivals and propelled them to the top of Group A in the SAFF Championship 2023 points table. India secured a superior goal difference compared to Kuwait, who had defeated Nepal 3-1 in the tournament opener.
Having recently won the Intercontinental Cup 2023, India entered the SAFF Championship 2023 with high spirits. They are currently ranked 101 in the FIFA rankings.
India made a strong start, displaying their aggressive intent against Pakistan, ranked 195 in the world. The first goal came within 10 minutes when Pakistan goalkeeper Saqib Hanif made a crucial error in front of the goal. Failing to clear the ball quickly after receiving a back-pass, Hanif played it directly into the path of Sunil Chhetri, who took advantage of the mistake and scored, giving India a 1-0 lead.
Following the early goal, India continued to attack from both flanks, putting pressure on Pakistan’s defence. Under the mounting pressure, Pakistan committed a handball in their own half, resulting in a penalty. Chhetri calmly slotted the ball into the left corner of the net, extending India’s lead to 2-0.
India maintained their dominance and control over the game, while Pakistan came close to scoring in the 29th minute when Muhammed Sufyan dribbled past Indian defenders but hit the crossbar. At halftime, India held a comfortable 2-0 lead.
In the second half, India retained their lead and immediately looked to add more goals. The Indian midfield provided through-balls to the forwards, but they were unable to convert their chances.
After a back-and-forth battle, Pakistan’s defense crumbled once again under Indian pressure. Chhetri was brought down inside the box, resulting in a penalty. With precision, Chhetri completed his hat-trick by lofting the ball into the top left corner, extending India’s lead to 3-0.
A few minutes later, India scored their fourth goal. Anwar Ali floated a shot into the Pakistan half, where Udanta Singh, unmarked, collected the ball and scored from close range, making it 4-0. With the game out of reach for Pakistan, the Indian team maintained possession and saw out the rest of the match.
India will face Nepal in their next Group A match of the SAFF Championship 2023.