India Set for Battle Against Pakistan For a Place in The Final After Defeating Maldives
India beat Maldives 2-0 in the group stage to book a semi-final clash with Pakistan in the ongoing SAFF Championship in Bangladesh.
Indian football team. (Image: AIFF Media)
India beat Maldives 2-0 in the group stage to book a semi-final clash with Pakistan in the ongoing SAFF Championship in Bangladesh. The semi-final will be the first official meeting of the two teams after a gap of 5 years.
The last time the two teams had met in an official match was also in a SAFF Championship in Kathmandu in September 2013. India had won 1-0 on that occasion.
Maiden international goals from Nikhil Poojary (36th) and Manvir Singh (45th) helped India to finish in pole position in Group B on 6 points, after defeating Maldives.
Poojary could have scored the opener in the 11th minute itself but despite getting all the power behind his header off a Anirudh Thapa cross, it sailed over.
Poojary and Lallianzuala Chhangte were constantly swapping positions on the wings and that stretched the rival defence. India eventually surged into the lead in the 36th minute. Poojary played a one-two with Farukh but the ball ricocheted off the Maldivian defender, with the Indian pouncing on the loose ball and placing it past the rival Goalkeeper Mohamed Faisal.
Manvir doubled the lead almost at the stroke of the interval. Thapa, a bit off-balanced with a rival midfielder shadowing him, made a precise pass for Manvir who sidestepped the onrushing Faisal and pushed it in.
Changing over, Poojary stayed a constant threat to the Maldives defence all throughout. In the 64th minute, a cross from him down the right was averted by an acrobatic Faisal.
Maldives, meanwhile, continued to look to reduce the margin and had Jerry Lalrinzuala not intercepted in time in the 73rd minute, they could have had a shot at the Indian goal.
The Indian defenders didn’t allow Maldives much space to manoeuvre. In the 78th minute an alert Indian Goalkeeper Vishal Kaith was quick to come off his line, in fact, outside the box to clear in time. Kaith’s reflexes allowed India to maintain a clean slate, the lanky custodian coming up with a couple of saves in the last 5 minutes.
India's clash against Pakistan will be played at Dhaka’s Bangabandhu Stadium on Wednesday, September 12.
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