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India win SAFF title

Last updated on: December 18, 2005 00:31 IST
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A goal in each half gave India a 2-0 victory over defending champions Bangladesh in the final of the SAFF football championship at the Peoples Stadium in Karachi on Saturday night.

Mehrajuddin Wadoo broke the ice in the 33rd minute and skipper Baichung Bhutia sealed victory when he scored in the 79th minutes to give India their fourth title, the first since 1999.

The victory also added another feather to the cap of coach Syed Naeemuddin, who won his second SAFF gold, having earlier coached India to glory in the 1997 event in which Charlton Chapman's team defeated Maldives 5-1 in Kathmandu.

It was India's 10th victory over Bangladesh, who are left with just three victories in 20 meetings.

In front of a cheering and supporting 30,000 spectators, India dominated the match from the very outset but had to wait till the 33rd minute to score their opening goal that came off Wadoo, who was returning after serving a one-match suspension.

Wadoo, an opportunist that he is, made full use of a melee inside the Bangladeshi box to find the net following a right wing cross by former Indian skipper and midfielder Venkatesh Shanmuganathan.

But before Wadoo scored the opener, India should have gone on the score-sheet but striker Rahim Nabi and then midfielder Climax Lawrence failed to give finishing touches to a brilliant move. A minute later, Ajayan should have got a goal after a solo breakaway but his feeble kick missed the target.

Bangladesh could have equalized two minutes after Wadoo put his side in front but Alfaz's header of Ariful Kabir went wide off left post.

The Indians were home and dry in the 81st minute when Bhutia tapped the ball past keeper Aminul Hoque from hand-shaking distance, following a defence-splitting left wing cross by substitute winger Abdul Hikkim.

Besides receiving a glittering trophy and a winner's cheque of $50,000 from Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, Baichung Bhutia, who won his third SAFF gold, also won the Most Valuable Player's award.

Bhutan won the Fair Play trophy.

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