India are U-16 SAFF Cup champions

Kathmandu, July 30 (IANS) India braved a heavy downpour to defeat Nepal 1-0 and lift the U-16 SAFF Cup football title at the Dasharath Stadium here Tuesday.

The winner came in the first half through left-back Jerry Lalrinzuala, whose left-footed long ranger crashed into the net in the 18th minute.

Nepal enjoyed the crowd support but India had the ball possession.

On a rain-soaked afternoon, India dominated proceedings from the kick-off, with the boys showing exemplary maturity to adjust to the slushy conditions underfoot. Despite being backed by a partisan crowd, Nepal were pushed on to the backfoot.

Birthday boy Jerry could not have asked for a better gift. The 14-year-old Mizoram lad impressed one and all with his darting overlaps down the left flank and was rewarded for his performance in the 18th minute.

Latching on to a loose ball just outside the 18-yard box, Jerry unleashed a venomous 30-yarder which crashed into the top corner of the net. India led 1-0 at halftime.

India continued to impress after the break as the rain kept pouring down. Jerry almost doubled his tally ten minutes into the second half when his free-kick from just outside the box went inches wide and then in the 66th minute, midfielder Deependra Singh Negi's attempt from close was fisted away by the Nepal custodian.

If the first essay was about India's raids, the second period brought to the fore their rock-solid rearguard. If skipper Jayananda Singh's last-ditch tackle in the 84th minute saved a sure shot goal, goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh had a match to remember making some crucial saves to keep the hosts at bay, especially in the last quarter of the match.

Head Coach Gautam Ghosh lauded his boys after the victory.

"The triumph shows that we are on the right track. It all began from scratch when we roped in talented boys from all parts of the Country," said Ghosh.

"Right from day one, Robert Baan and Scott O'Donell showed us the path to tread on and they have continuously monitored our progress. I reiterate that ours is a Developmental Process and results don't matter," he added.

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