Defending champions India book final spot of SAFF Suzuki Cup Championship after defeating Pakistan 3-1 in the second semifinal at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka on Wednesday evening.
The 7th time champions, India, will play the final on Saturday (September 15) at 7pm at the same venue against the Maldives, the champions of 2008 SAAF Cup, which made the final berth shocking spirited Nepal by 3-0 goals in the first semifinal earlier in the day.
After a barren first, Manvir Singh struck twice and Sumeet Passi netted one for the India while Hassan Bashir netted the lone goal for Pakistan.
Both the teams were reduced to 10 men in the 86th minute when Mohsin Ali of Pakistan and Lalianzuala Changte were shown direct red cards for a brawl among themselves. Changte punched Pakistani forward Hasan Basheer after a foul and Mohsin came running from behind to push Changte.
Just three minutes after the resumption, Ashik Kuruniyan darted down the left flank before cutting the ball back to onrushing Manvir Singh who placed the ball past Ijaz Yusuf Butt from handshaking distance (1-0).
The fate of the match was decided in the 69th minute with Manvir adding his second goal. It was a perfect build-up by substitute Laliuazuala Changte who drifted through the midfield, cut a diagonal pass to Vinit Rai who pushed the ball to Manvir who hit the far post net with diagonal drive (2-0).
A demoralised Pakistan conceded the third in the 83rd minute when Ashik Kuruniyan used the free space in the right flank and cut a cross for substitute Sumeet Pasi, who headed home (3-0).
Pakistan’s consolation came in the 89th minute with Hassan Bashir slamming home with grounder after Indian defender Sharthak Golui’s headed clearance set him free (3-1).
Earlier, in a lively opening first quarter of the hour, Pakistan was the first to open the opponent defence. In the 7th minute Pakistani forward Hasan Basheer cut an angular grounder from the right edge of the box forcing Indian custodian Vishal Kaith to stretch to his limit to grip the ball.
India reacted quickly with two counterattacks with Manvir Singh diving forward to head low cross of Ashik Kuruniyan that went straight to Pakistani goalie Ijaz Yusuf Butt in the eighth minute and Vinit Rai saw his 25 yarder punched for a corner in the following minute.
India, however, were more enterprising in the second quarter of the hour pressing Pakistan back. Ijaz was in his brilliant best in the 24th minute to deny Manvir Singh who placed a cut back to the far post and two minutes later pulled out another acrobatic punch on a rasping drive of Ashik Kuruniyan that earned India the third corner.
Pakistan piling pressure upon their opponents sent a big chill in the 37th minute with forward Mehmood Khan unleashing a fierce right footer that was picked by Vishal Kaith with a quick reaction and Indian forward Farukh Haji Kasam Chowdhury’s volley was punched by Ijkaz Butt in the following minute.
India were fortunate in the first minute of the two minute added time when Hasan Basheer’s head on a cross of Saddam Hossain beat Vishal Kaith in the air but missed the side post.