Defending champions India set up a final clash in the SAFF Suzuki Cup against Maldives after handing archrivals Pakistan a 3-1 defeat in the second semifinal at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.
After a barren first half, Manvir Singh scored a brace while substitute Sumeet Passi's goal took favourites India to the final for the 11th time – in 12 editions -- and their seventh in a row, shattering Pakistan's dream of a first-ever final.
Hassan Bashir pulled one back but that was not enough for Pakistan to emulate their feat of 2003 when they handed India a defeat in the first match of the SAFF Championship at this venue.
The young India side had breezed into the semifinals with victories against Sri Lanka and Maldives, but they were given a real test by the Pakistanis last night.
And it was Pakistan who came close to taking the lead in the seventh minute, but Muhammad Riaz's header at near post flashed inches wide.
However, India continued to display their fast-paced football through the wings and dominated proceedings in the following ten minutes, exposing the Pakistan defence a few times. Yet, they could not break the final hurdle, thanks to some excellent saves from Pakistan goalkeeper Yousuf Ijaz Butt.
Butt denied Manvir in the ninth and 25th minutes before thwarting an effort from India striker Haji Faruk Kasam in the 27th minute.
Having reorganised, Pakistan put the pressure back on the Indian defence and created three scoring chances, but this time India goalkeeper Vishal Kaith stood tall and denied Muhammad Riaz from close range. Bashir saw two successive attempts narrowly miss the target, much to the relief of the Indian goalkeeper as the two sides went into the break on a deadlock.
The deadlock was broken in the 48th minute when Ashique Kuruniyan's cross from the left was placed home by Manvir. The India No. 9 doubled the lead in the 69th minute after a nice build-up from the right flank. From a counter-attack, substitute Lallianzuala Chhangte nutmegged two defenders to play a diagonal pass for Vinit Rai, who set up Manvir for a powerful angular shot.
As Pakistan looked tired, substitute Passi took the game away from them by heading home a cross from Kuruniyan's in the 84th minute before Bashir pulled one back two minutes from time.
Pakistan defender Mohsin Ali and India forward Chhangte were sent off in the 85th minute following a scuffle, but as the tempers subsided India started their celebration.