A youthful India proved to be too strong for Pakistan as they thrashed the bitter rivals by 3-1 goals in the second semi-final of the 12th SAFF Championship to set up a final against Maldives at the Bangabandhu National Stadium on Wednesday.
Striker Manvir Singh scored a brace while substitute Sumit Passi scored the other goal to send the Indians into the final of South Asia’s most prestigious football tournament for the 11th time in 12 editions.
Captain Hassan Bashir pulled one goal back for Pakistan.
Maldives earlier defeated Nepal by 3-0 in the first semi-final of the day to move to the final, scheduled on September 15.
Indian coach Stephen Constantine came into their tournament with their Under-23 team with an aim to give the youngsters more international exposure.
The young brigade did not disappoint the veteran coach as they moved within one game to lift their eighth SAFF title.
India began the semi-final with an attacking mode but Pakistan’s compact defense offered very little space for their attackers initially.
Pakistan goalkeeper Ijaz Butt made some crucial saves to keep their net intact in the first half.
Pakistan wasted the best chance of the game in the added time of the first half when Hassan Bashir headed a cross of Saddam Hossain from the just goal mouth melee over the post.
India took the lead three minutes into the second half when Manvir Singh placed home following a low cross from Ashique Kuruniyan from the left corner of the box.
Manvir doubled India’s lead in the 69th minute with another fine finish after a build-up by substitute left back Lallianzuala Changte and Vinit Rai.
Striker Sumeet Passi, who came off the bench to replace Manvir in the 82nd minute, made an immediate impact as he scored the third goal in the 84th minute by heading home following a neat cross of Ashique from the left flank.
Both the sides were reduced to 10-man in the 86th minute when India’s substitute left-back Chhangte and Pakistan’s defender Mohsin Ali received marching orders.
Hassan Bashir scored the consolation for Pakistan two minutes later as the forward tried a grounder from almost 30 yards out find the left corner of the net.
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