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Added time goal steers India to title

Kathmandu: Ravi Bahadur Rana's stoppage time strike gave India the SAFF U-18 Championship 2019 title as they edged Bangladesh 2-1 in a tense final at the APF Stadium on Sunday.

It was a dramatic end to a final which had seen India reduced to 10 men and Bangladesh nine.

The final started promisingly for India, who took the lead in just the second minute through Vikram Partap Singh.

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Both teams - who had played to a 0-0 draw in the group stage - were reduced to 10 men in the 22nd minute when Gurkirat Singh and Md Fahim were given the marching orders following a melee.

Bangladesh, the 2017 runners-up, kept pressing and drew level in the 40th minute through Yeasin Arafat but his celebrations ended with the skipper being sent off.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, Bangladesh held their own in the second half but there was to be heartbreak at the end as Rana struck the winner for India in the first minute of added time.

“I had maintained that it will take a moment of brilliance to end this SAFF Championship, and it was fitting that Ravi finished if off with a wonderful strike,” head coach Floyd Pinto said.

“We were not just the best footballing team in the tournament, but also the most effective team. I am really happy for the boys. They earned it. The sacrifices and the commitment of the boys was exemplary.”

India’s Ninthoinganba Meetei was adjudged the Most Valuable Player of the tournament.

The U-18 triumph follows India's SAFF U-15 Championship win in August and sets Pinto's team nicely for the AFC U-19 Championship 2020 Qualifiers in November.

India are in Group F of the Qualifiers with Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan while Bangladesh are in Group E with Jordan, Bahrain and Bhutan, who were defeated 1-0 by Maldives in the SAFF U-18 Championship 2019 playoff for third place earlier on Sunday.

Maldives are in Group C of the AFC U-19 Championship 2020 Qualifiers with Tajikistan, Syria and Lebanon.

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