It was a match worthy of being a final as India trounced Bangladesh 5-2 in front of a roaring Kalinga Stadium to clinch the SAFF U20 Championship title.
Gurkirat Singh spearheaded the Indian attack with four goals in the match and finished as the tournament’s top scorer with eight goals. Apart from Gurkirat’s goalfest, Himangshu Jangra also found the net. MD. Rajon Howladar and Shahin Mia were the two scorers for Bangladesh.
India took an early lead in the first minute after the Bangladesh keeper MD Asif brought down Gurkirat inside the box.
Gurkirat converted from the spot after sending the keeper the wrong way for India’s first.
Despite trailing early, Bangladesh did not panic and kept the Indian defence busy with its expansive style of play from the flanks.
Gurkirat had a couple of chances to find the net, but could not do so.
India’s failure to capitalise on its chances came back to haunt it. Right before half-time, Bangladesh created a brilliant attacking move. MD Rafiqul Islam squared the ball from the right flank and found MD. Rajon Howladar, who took a first-time shot and buried the ball in the bottom-left corner to equalise for Bangladesh.
It was a fast start for Bangladesh in the second half, which paid off. The Indians, still looking to find their feet in the second half, conceded their second in the 48th minute. They failed to clear a Bangladesh free-kick, and Shahin Mia latched on to the ball and dispatched a venomous shot at goal, that hit the inner side of the right post and rattled the net to make it 2-1 for the visitor.
The Indians, like the Bangladeshis in the first half, did not lose their composure after going behind. They kept hounding the Bangladesh defence, and the efforts bore fruit in the 60th minute after Gurkirat scored his second and equalised for India.
This time, the Bangladesh defence failed to clear the ball. Gurkirat, who was stationed just outside the box, took a first-time shot and cannoned the ball in the bottom-right corner.
Jangra came close on a couple of occasions to find the net but came short both times in front of Bangladesh’s sharp defending.
Brijesh Giri had a chance to snatch it right at the end. Vibin Mohanan sent a well-measured low cross to Giri, who guided the ball towards goal with a well-improvised shot, but Asif kept the visitor in the match with a stunning save at full-stretch in the last minute.
With the match going into extra time after the scores were level at 2-2 after 90 minutes, India made an immediate impact courtesy of Jangra’s strike in the 91st minute. Jangra was missing his finishing boots in the first 90 minutes, but the youngster showed calm and composure to stroke the ball past the keeper to put India ahead.
While Bangladesh was looking to recuperate, India stuck it with another blow. This time, Gurkirat, a familiar face in front of the goal, went past Asif and found the bottom corner of the open net from a tight angle to make it 4-2 for the host.
Many in the stadium might have thought Gurkirat was done after grabbing his hat-trick, but he had other plans. Right after scoring India’s fourth, Gurkirat, this time on the turn, took a shot from distance and the ball flew over Asif’s head into the net to score his fourth.