An own goal late in the game against Kuwait at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru resulted in a 1-1 tie, denying India the chance to win Group A of the SAFF Championship 2023. Both teams were reduced to ten players at the end of the game, and India head coach Igor Stimac was once again dismissed for using unpleasant language towards the referees.
Stimac made six changes to the team that defeated Nepal 2-0 after serving a one-match suspension for receiving a red card against Pakistan. Sandesh Jhingan and Anwar Ali resumed their defensive pairing, Amrinder Singh was back in goal, and Jeakson Singh, Ashique Kuruniyan, and Lallianzuala Chhangte were all restored to the starting lineup. Ashique was positioned behind India's captain Sunil Chhetri at the beginning of the game, and that strategy was successful in preventing Kuwait's Sultan Alenezi from controlling the game's tempo through his passing range.
Sunil Chhetri's clever goal gives India an early lead:
Anwar Ali might have done better with his header off Anirudh Thapa's corner in the 40th minute, when India's opportunities were mostly coming from set pieces, but he glanced wide. Soon after, however, Chhetri turned without error off another Thapa corner. He saw the ball drop at his feet near the penalty spot after deftly disguising his inaction, and fired a perfect volley into the bottom corner to give India the lead.
No shortage of drama:
Ashique and Chhetri had opportunities that fell to them, but Stimac's team made the early running in the second half as well. It seemed like India would manage the game to a victory after some straightforward saves for Amrinder to make and a strong last-ditch tackle from Jhingan, but Stimac's red card was a turning point.
The Croatian was sent off for the second time in this competition after getting on the Bangladeshi referee's bad side one too many times after previously receiving a booking. In the four years that Stimac has been the head coach, India has only had one player sent off (Rahul Bheke versus Qatar).
Rahim Ali and Hamad Alqallaf were then involved in a scuffle after the latter pushed substitute Sahal Abdul Samad onto the ground, and both were promptly given their marching orders as well.
Kuwait's camp sent into delirium as India concedes a last-minute goal:
Abdullah Albloushi successfully passed the ball to Salman Mohammad, who then deposited it in the danger zone. Despite being in the ideal position, Anwar was unable to make good contact with his left foot, which he used to slice past the defenceless Amrinder and set off wild celebrations on the Kuwaiti bench.
India will likely face Lebanon in the semifinal on Saturday after having already played them twice earlier this month at the Intercontinental Cup thanks to their second-place finish in the group.