SAFF Cup: India ride on Manvir Singh’s brace to beat Pakistan 3-1 and enter final
Striker Manvir Singh scored twice, while Sumeet Passi came off the bench to net a third as India held on to few nervy moments to eventually beat Pakistan 3-1 and sail into the finals of the SAFF Championship Cup on Dhaka on Wednesday.
India was expected to make a cakewalk against Pakistan. But the first half surprisingly turned out to be an intense affair, with Pakistan’s missing a glancing header in the dying minutes of the opening half to put his ahead. SEE MATCH HIGHLIGHTS HERE.
The striking duo of Manvir and Nikihil Poojary were presented with several chances in the opening 45 minutes, but despite several inroads in the Pakistani box they failed to beat the brilliance of goalkeeper Yousuf Butt. India’s best opportunity in the first half came to Farukh Choudhary, whose curling effort from just outside the box was parried by Butt in the 34th minute.
His superman power, however, lasted just four minutes into the second half when Manvir steered home a lovely Ashique Kuruniyan pass from the left flank with the back of his foot to break the deadlock and put India ahead in the 49th minute.
Receiving a pass from Farukh, the FC Pune City winger eased passed every Pakistan defender possible before sending a low yet gorgeous cross into the opposition box, from which Manvir scored.
But if the first goal was a glimpse of India’s tactical and skilled superiority, the second was even better.
Lallianzuala Chhangte, who had just come on for Nikhil went on a wonderful run in the 68th minute, overstepping two defenders and attracting another before passing the ball to an unmarked Vinit Rai. Rai’s first touch was heavy, but the ball landed at Manvir’s foot, who blasted home from a first-time shot to put India 2-0 up.
Aiming for a first career hat-trick, Manvir was however forced to be substituted late into the game, after he had taken a knock on the face. His replacement Passi came and made an instant impact scoring just seconds after he had come on in the 83rd minute.
In what was a replay of the opening goal, Ashique once again made a darting run on the left channel before sending a long cross – this time high – into the Pakistani box, which found birthday boy Passi’s head sending the ball into an open net.
The third goal ensured India’s victory, but Pakistan was not among the ones to give up and rallied hard for an equaliser. They eventually found one in the 88th minute, when Hassan Bashir scored from a long ranger. It though was nothing more of a consolation goal for Pakistan.
India will now meet Maldives – who thrashed Nepal 3-0 – in the final on Saturday. They will, however, miss the services of Chhangte, who was shown a straight red along with Pakistan’s Mohsin Ali for an off the ball altercation in the 86th minute.
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