A tie that feels like a defeat. There was no other way to adequately describe India’s 1-1 draw with Kuwait at the SAFF Championship on Tuesday, although it may be an overused expression after giving up a late goal. Anwar Ali’s poorly timed clearance that looped into the net for an own goal ended the frantic 90 minutes action packed performance. After this match in the ongoing Saff Championship, Sunil Chhetri, the captain, was quick to explain,
“It’s not Anwar, it’s the country that conceded. It’s my own goal. It can happen to anyone. We are professional enough not to talk about it. I hope the kid shrugs it off. We all have his back.”
“Technical mistakes are something that we do not take too seriously. We just work on our effort. Sometimes I miss silly goals that I shouldn’t have. If somebody makes a silly challenge, then we get a penalty against us. It all happens in football. It’s now in the past.”
After the final buzzer sounded, the stadium echoed with the enthusiastic cheers and loud singing of their Blue Tigers. After hearing his name sung by the devoted supporters, Anwar, who had stepped towards the west block with a feeling of remorse, was able to hold his head high.
Hugs and pats on the back from his teammates served as reminders of how amazing and nearly faultless he had played that evening; one incident cannot erase all of it.
Anwar was everywhere in defense, dominatingly supporting Sandesh Jhingan as he did for the entire month. He thus played the way head coach Igor Stimac intended him and every Blue Tiger (India) to against a team like Kuwait by maintaining good positioning, maintaining spatial awareness, and not being afraid to fly into challenges.
“To a large extent, we could do exactly what we had trained for. They are not an easy side. This team can play, and we could see that. But we matched their energy, and most of the time, I think we did well,” stated Chhetri.
“But the feeling that comes to our mind is that of a loss because we conceded at the last moment,” he added. “Clean sheet was one of our targets today, which went out of the window. All of us in the dressing room are a little bit disheartened about that. Now, it’s the unbeaten run that we want to keep as long as possible.”
India has won every one of its nine games this 2023 season. The latest loss was in Guwahati against Oman in September 2019 during the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, giving the home team a run of nearly four years.
With his 92nd goal, Chhetri achieved a new record amid all the mayhem. With 23 of them coming from the SAFF Championship, he is now tied for the most goals in the competition’s history with Ali Ashfaq of the Maldives. However, Chhetri values trophies more than goals.