SAFF Suzuki Cup
Winning start for India
Defending champions India got off to a flying start in the SAFF Suzuki Cup with a 2-0 victory over Sri Lanka in Group B opener at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.
Ashiqure Kuruiyan put the seven-time champions ahead with a placing shot in the first half before Lallianzuala Chhangte wrapped up the victory at the start of the second half to all but ensure their semifinal berth from the three-team group, which also features Maldives.
India, comprising under-23 players, kept Sri Lanka at bay throughout the match with their pacey run through the flanks which virtually kept the Sri Lankan defence under tremendous pressure.
Sri Lanka, however, tried to display some organised football but it was tough for them against the high-pressing football from the charges of English coach Stephen Constantine.
The Islanders could hardly take a shot on target even though they were the first to come close to breaking the deadlock when Mohamed Rifnaz saw his free-kick narrowly drift away from the far post.
With India pressing high after controlling the midfield, Kuruiyan was presented with a through-pass by Smeet Passi and the forward ran past a defender to place it on to the far post with his left foot from inside the box in the 35th minute.
Four minutes later, Chhangte squandered an opportunity by floating over the crosspiece from inside the box, but the winger made amends to double the lead two minutes into the second half with a cross from the left flank which drifted into far post.
Haji Faruk Kasem was denied by the woodwork in the 71st minute while Sri Lankan goalkeeper Sujan Perera made a couple of brilliant saves to deny India from increasing the margin.