India's premier shot-stopper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu went for the tried and tested formula of defending penalty kicks — predict a side and dive, leaving the outcome to chance — as his first save shaped the home side's win over Lebanon in the SAFF Championships semifinal here.
India prevailed over Lebanon 4-2 in the penalty shootout after 120 minutes of goalless action on Saturday to seal a summit clash against Kuwait, to be played on Tuesday.
After captain Sunil Chhetri scored from the spot, Sandhu saved the first kick from the Lebanon captain as he dived to his left and blocked the low shot from Hassan Maatouk.
Anwar Ali, Mahesh Singh and Udanta Singh found the back of the net in the next three shots for India. Lebanon's second and third penalty takers were also able to find the target. But with India leading 4-2, Khalil Bader shot over the crossbar to hand the home side a place in the final.
"As a goalkeeper, all I want to do is make the penalty taker's job tough. I try to stay big until the last moment, choose a side and get a hand to the ball," Sandhu said.
"You can't save every penalty. But you try to know what the taker is thinking. Someone will try to trick you, someone will come with a pre-decided shot. The experience and physicality help. If I'm five-foot-four, I wouldn't have saved that penalty, for sure."
Assistant coach Mahesh Gawli said Sandhu's save gave confidence to teammates.
"His save gave a lot of confidence to our players, who came to take the next penalties," he said.