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SAFF Cup 2018: India ease past Maldives, book semifinal with Pakistan

By Aravind
A file picture of the Indian football team

New Delhi, September 9: India defeated Maldives 2-0 to book a semi-final clash with arch rivals Pakistan in the SAFF Suzuki Cup 2018. The semi-final, which will be the first official meeting of the two teams after a gap of five years, will be played at Dhaka's Bangabandhu Stadium on Wednesday (September 12).

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.

On Sunday (September 9), maiden international goals from Nikhil Poojary (36th minute) and Manvir Singh (45th) helped India to finish on pole position in Group B on six points.

Nikhil 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.

Nikhil 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. Nikhil played a one-two with Farukh and as the rival defender despite intercepting it fumbled a bit, Nikhil pounced on the loose ball and placed it delectably past the rival Goalkeeper Mohamed Faisal.

Manvir doubled the lead almost at the stroke of interval. Thapa, a bit off-balanced with a rival midfielder shadowing him, managed to essay a gem of a pass for Manvir who sidestepped the onrushing Faisal and pushed it in.

Changing over, Nikhil 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 not Jerry Lalrinzuala intercepted in time in the 73rd minute, they could have had a shot at the Indian goal.

The Indian defenders didn't allow them 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.

RESULT: India 2 (Nikhil Poojary 36, Manvir Singh 45) bt Maldives 0

Source: AIFF Media

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    Story first published: Sunday, September 9, 2018, 21:26 [IST]
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