SAFF Championship: India held to goalless draw by Sri Lanka

The Indian football team is placed third in the points table after the draw against Sri Lanka. The top two teams will play the SAFF Championship 2021 final.

By Aarish Ansari
Picture by AIFF

The Indian football team played out a goalless draw against Sri Lanka in the SAFF Championship 2021 at the National Football Stadium in Male, the Maldives on Thursday.

India, ranked 107th in the latest FIFA rankings, were out looking for their first win of the tournament against world No. 205 Sri Lanka. Sunil Chhetri and Co. were held to a 1-1 draw by Bangladesh in their opening match.

Against the Lankans, the Blue Tigers bossed the possession but failed to convert the dominance into goals.  

After a cautious start from both sides, the first big moment of the match came when Udanta Singh and Sunil Chhetri combined well to start a dangerous counter-attack. Asikur Rahuman, however, snuffed out the danger with a foul on Singh.

Mandar Rao Desai could have put India in the lead in the 15th minute, only to be denied by Lankan keeper Sujan Perera’s first of many timely interventions. His counterpart Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, meanwhile, had little to do throughout the match.

India’s best chance came five minutes later when an unmarked Liston Colaco missed a header from inside the box.

India, seven-time SAFF champions, struggled with their passing and lacked the finesse to unlock a diligent Lankan defence in the first-half.

In search of the opening goal, India upped the tempo in the second period.

Igor Stimac’s side came closest to scoring in the 55th minute when Sunil Chhetri headed a free kick towards the goal, but, yet again, it was the Lankan custodian who came to the rescue with a fine save.

India missed three more opportunities in the next five minutes and Sri Lanka’s efforts to slow down the game only increased the frustration in the Indian camp. India head coach Igor Stimac was even shown a yellow card for his protests.

Towards the end of regulation time, Subhasish Bose squandered an easy chance from a corner kick, which ended India’s hopes of getting a win.

Sri Lanka, on the other hand, registered their first point of the tournament, having lost to Bangladesh and Nepal earlier.

After the draw, India are still third on the table with two points while Nepal lead with six, followed by Bangladesh with four.

India next play Nepal on October 10 and their final group game is against the Maldives on October 13. India need to finish in the top two to play in the final on October 16.