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India defeats Nepal in SAFF Championship; Chhetri equals Pele’s 77 goals

Sunil Chhetri, India’s talismanic captain, equaled the legendary Pele with his 77th international goal on Sunday, as his 83rd-minute strike helped India beat Nepal 1-0 and preserved his team from elimination in the SAFF Championships.

Sunil Chhetri, who was playing in his 123rd match for India, scored a late goal to draw level with Brazil’s great (77 goals from 92 matches).

He is now tied for third place on the list of active footballers with UAE’s Ali Mabkhout (77), behind Cristiano Ronaldo (112) and Lionel Messi (79).

Farukh Chaudhary, a substitute, won a penalty box header and steered it to the centre of the six-yard box, where Chhetri was waiting to smash the ball past Nepal goalkeeper Kiran Limbu.

Champions for the seventh time, India is now in third place in the five-team table, with five points from three matches, behind Maldives (six points from three matches) and Nepal (six points from three matches).

If India is to advance to the October 16 final, they must win their final round-robin league match on Wednesday against hosts Maldives. India would have been eliminated if they had drawn against Nepal.

After drawing with lower-ranked Bangladesh (1-1) and Sri Lanka (0-0) in their previous matches, the Indian team and head coach Igor Stimac were under fire. In the 70th minute, Chaudhary came on as a replacement for Mohd. Yasir.

India was the dominant team throughout the encounter, creating numerous chances. However, they were unable to put the finishing touches on the opportunities they were given.

In the first half, Chhetri had also squandered a good chance to score. Prior to Sunday’s triumph, India had tied 0-0 and defeated Nepal 2-0 in their previous clashes this year.

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