A composed India secured a thrilling 4-2 win over Lebanon via a penalty shootout at the SAFF Championship 2023. After a goalless 120 minutes of play, the defending champions booked their place in the tournament’s final, scheduled for July 4. India will face Kuwait, who emerged as victors with a 1-0 scoreline against Bangladesh in the other semifinal on the same day.
The win marks India’s 13th appearance in the regional tournament’s final, extending their streak to nine consecutive finals. In SAFF Championship history, India has come out on top on eight occasions of the previous 13 editions. They only failed to secure a top-two finish back in 2003.
🇱🇧 0 (2) – 0 (4) 🇮🇳
Our #SAFFChampionship2023 semifinal was a proper nail-biter 😬🤞
🙌 Relive the penalty shootout ft. @GurpreetGK’s heroics and watch the full match highlights on our YouTube channel 👉🏽 https://t.co/mKV5xjVjRb #LBNIND ⚔️ #BlueTigers 🐯 #IndianFootball ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/2NJ6VXX0bE
— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) July 1, 2023
In the penalty shootout, Indian skipper Sunil Chhetri, along with Anwar Ali, Mahesh Singh, and Udanta Singh, successfully scored. Lebanon scored twice through Walid Shour and Mohammad Sadek. However, India goalkeeper Gurpreet Sandhu made a crucial save from a shot by Hassan Maatouk. Khalil Bader’s shot went over the crossbar.
The SAFF Championship 2023 result also marks India’s second consecutive win over Lebanon, following their 2-0 triumph in the recent Intercontinental Cup in Odisha. The early stages of the game saw Lebanon dominate proceedings, as India struggled to make an impact. Lebanon had the opportunity to take the lead in the second minute, but Nader Matar’s volley sailed over the bar.
India gradually found their rhythm and had their first chance at goal in the 16th minute. Chhetri orchestrated the attack and set up Jeakson Singh with a well-placed pass. The latter found Sahal Abdul Samad inside the box, but his shot was saved on the goal line by Ali Dhaini. Lebanon continued to dominate the first half could not find the breakthrough. Indian goalkeeper Gurpreet Sandhu also denied their captain Hassan Maatouk a chance to convert.
In the second half of the SAFF Championship 2023, neither team could break the deadlock, with both defending strongly. Despite some competitive midfield battles, neither side could produce the winner, leading the match into extra time. Chhetri had two opportunities to score in the 93rd and 95th minutes, but failed to find the target on both occasions.