SAFF Suzuki Cup: India, Maldives cruise into final
Seven-time champions India set up a final clash against one-time champions Maldives in the SAFF Suzuki Cup following comfortable victories in their respective semifinals at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.
India, the defending champions, made it to their seventh straight final after emerging 3-1 winners in a lively and somewhat tempestuous second semifinal against Pakistan last night.
Manvir Singh scored twice early in the second half before substitute Sumeet Passi put the game beyond doubt. Both teams had a man sent off as tempers flared towards the end and Pakistan mustered a goal through Hassan Bashir but there was no comeback for Jose Antonio Nogueira's men.
Pakistan, who were out of international football for almost three years before being reintroduced two months ago, had their share of opportunities in the first half, but Stephen Constantine's charges kept them at bay before taking the game by the scruff of the neck in the second half.
Meanwhile, Maldives brushed aside Nepal 3-0 in the first semifinal, thanks to an early strike from captain Akram Abdul Ghanee and two late goals from Ibrahim Hassan Waheed. The Islanders, who needed the luck of a coin toss to progress to the last four after collecting a single point from two group games, turned up a much more lethal side.
Nepal, on the other hand, failed to replicate their performances from the group stages where they won back-to-back matches after an opening-game defeat to Pakistan.
The final, to be played on Saturday, will be the fourth time India and Maldives will play in the title-decider, with the former enjoying a 2-1 head-to-head record.