India and Pakistan faced each other in Bengaluru as the Group Stage for the SAFF Championship took off on the 21st of June. The two sides met on the football pitch after almost five years, their last encounter being in 2018. The meeting was greatly anticipated and more than 20000 spectators were present at Sree Kanteerava Stadium despite the wet conditions.
The match was one for the history books and was full of drama and spectacle befitting such a historical rivalry. Sunil Chhetri scored a hattrick and Team India handily defeated Pakistan. Coach Igor Stimac was awarded a red card and was shown off the pitch.
A great many things happened in the duration but the 5 key takeaways are as follows.
1. Skipper Sunil Chhetri Strikes Thrice
Two Penalties and one from open play saw the captain of the Men In Blue score another international Hat-trick as well as his 90th international goal. The first goal was fortuitous as Pakistan Goal-keeper Saqib Hanif fumbled the ball and the seasoned veteran showed him the cost of making such errors as he wasted no time in driving the ball into the embrace of the net with a well-aimed kick. After this goal in the 10th minute, another opportunity arrived as a shot by Anirudh Thapa hit the hand of a Pakistani player within their box thus awarding India a penalty. Sunil showcased his experience and level-headedness as he hit true and the ball shot past the keeper’s gloves.
In the second half, he scored in the 74th minute. He is tackled in the opponent’s box and team India is awarded a penalty which he takes and thus securing his hat-trick. Throughout the match, he has taken multiple shots on target and kept constant pressure on the Pakistani defence. With this match, he has scored 90 goals and ranks among the top international Goal Scorers.
2. Igor Stimac Incurs Red Card for Interference in Play
Indian Coach Igor Stimac’s actions created drama on the pitch. In a rare lapse of reason, he was seen trying to stop Pakistani player Abdullah Iqbal from taking a throw. This led to an altercation between the players and coaches of both nations. The match officials had to step in to resolve the issue. This led to Igor Stimac being shown a red card and shown off the pitch much to the dismay of the Indian players. Players of both nations who were vocal during the scuffle were shown yellow cards.
There is much debate as to why he chose to do this but regardless there is no doubt he broke the rules. However, Team India did not let this loss affect them and their unquestioning dominance over the match continued in the second half where they scored two additional goals. This performance shows Igor Stimac’s achievement as the coach. The cohesion and determination of the players is unwavering who do not let such setbacks affect their performance on the pitch.
3. The superior skill of the Men in Blue
The Indian team outclassed the Pakistani side from the get-go. They kept Pakistan on their toes with unrelenting attacks as all the forwards took turns chipping away at the defences. This pressure led to a blunder by Pakistani goalkeeper Saqib Hanif, who made an error while passing. The skipper Sunil wasted no time and sent the ball shooting past the goalkeeper who frantically chased after the ball but to no avail. They scored a total of two goals in the first half and the indomitable defence did not let the ball enter the net.
In the second half, they had to play without the valuable insight and support of their coach Igor Stimac who was shown his way out due to his actions. They did not let this affect them and continued playing as before. Despite Pakistan’s attempts, they could not breach India’s defences. A goal from the skipper in the 75th minute and a late screamer from Udanta Singh in the 81st minute sealed the fate of Pakistan.
4. Pakistan need to up their Game
Team Pakistan led by Easah Suliman needs to improve themselves. Throughout the match, they rarely got to shoot at India’s goal and conceded goals that could have been easily avoided had they had more experience and skill as a team. Hanif’s blunder at passing was an avoidable one and so were the two penalties. Pakistan could not breach India’s defences in the entire match. In their previous encounter, Pakistan managed to score one goal despite being defeated.
They should take a page from their neighbour’s books and participate in more matches and undertake more training. Team India has honed itself greatly due to the various training camps and international tournaments that they participate in throughout the football season. The ISL serves as a forge for the players to improve and be made. Under foreign coaches and playing with and against foreign players, the squad members have improved by leaps and bounds. The Pakistani team should take part in more matches and raise the level of their club football so that they can become a force to be reckoned with on the football pitch.
5. Indian Fans showered Love amid a shower
More than 20000 fans gathered at Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru amid the wet conditions. The match owing to the associated rivalry garnered much interest among Indians which led to many people watching the match across various platforms. They were delighted to see the display of skill and sportsmanship from the players. Matches such as this help Indian Football gain its due in the eyes of the Indian populace.
Sunil Chhetri as the captain amazed the viewers as his skill and experience led to him landing the most devastating blows on the Pakistani defence. Thapar, Chhangte and Udanta’s contributions were valuable to India’s victory.
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