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Nimble India too good for Pakistan

DHAKA: Manvir Singh struck twice in the second half before Sumeet Passi headed home a clinical pass as defending champions India breezed past Pakistan 3-1 to sail into the final of the SAFF Suzuki Cup, here on Wednesday.
After a goalless but competitive first-half where both the teams tried hard to draw first blood, Manvir scored his first in the 49th minute only to double the score-line twenty minutes later with a sublime strike. Substitute Passi sealed the fate of the match in the 83rd minute. For Pakistan Hassan Bashir reduced the margin in the 88th minute.
India will now meet Maldives in the summit clash on Saturday. Maldives made short work of Nepal 3-0 in the first semi-final.
The first goal came off a brilliant counter-attack. Ashique Kuruniyan ran past everyone down the left and unleashed a low cross which was gleefully tapped in by Manvir to set the Indian fans berserk. If that was good, the second goal was even better.
Lalliazuala Chhangte who replaced Nikhil Poojary in the 68th minute made an immediate impact as India doubled the lead. The super-sub made a blistering run down the middle of the pitch, sidestepped two defenders and passed it to Vinit Rai.
The midfielder on turn rolled it to Manvir who blasted it home from top of the box. However, following a challenge, Manvir was substituted as Stephen Constantine brought in Sumeet Passi.
The former AIFF Academy cadet took less than a minute to join the party as he found the target in the 83rd. Ashique, the architect of the first goal, made an identical run down the flank to deliver it for Passi who headed the ball in.
However, India received a blow as Chhangte was given marching orders for an off the ball offence on Mohsin Ali. Mohsin was also red-carded for his challenge.
Earlier, India had the first opportunity of the game in the 10th minute itself but that time Manvir wasn’t able to connect Ashique’s perfect cross. Seasoned Pakistan goalkeeper Yusuf Butt also came up with some spectacular saves to keep the Indians at bay in the first-half – the most notable being his save to deny Subhashish Bose’s volley off an Anirudh Thapa corner.
India survived a scare in the 39th minute when Pakistan earned an indirect free-kick at the edge of the 6-yard box but Goalkeeper Vishal Kaith came up with back to back saves to deny Pakistan.
Earlier the Indian football team head coach Stephen Constantine had said that the game against arch-rivals Pakistan will be “just another match”.
“We are aware of the contest. But that is nothing different. It’s just another match. We can’t let the occasion get over us and hopefully, we will beat them to advance to the final,” Constantine said prior to the match.
Now with this win defending champions India stand a very good chance to lay hand on the coveted prize when they take on Maldives in Final on Saturday at the same venue.(PTI)

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