India, Maldives in final showdown
Dhaka: India stayed perfect while Maldives roared as both teams advanced to the final of the 2018 SAFF Cup on Wednesday.
Defending champions India saw off Pakistan's challenge 3-1 in their semi-final while Maldives produced their best performance so far to defeat Nepal 3-0 in their last four tie at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka.
It will be a rematch between the two teams on Saturday, with India having beaten Maldives 2-0 in their Group B clash earlier in the tournament.
After a tight first half, India took the lead three minutes into the restart with Manvir Singh scoring with a right footed shot into the bottom left corner.
Boosted by the goal, India pressed forward and Manvir Singh doubled their lead in the 69th minute when he rifled the ball into the top right corner of the Pakistan goalmouth.
Sumit Passi headed home India's third in the 84th minute before Hassan Bashir scored a consolation for Pakistan two minutes from full time.
“We played very well from the beginning to the end. We have to give credit to Pakistan as well, they made a fantastic game of it, but overall we deserved to win.
"We had more chances, we dominated the game. I’m just disappointed we conceded a goal," said India head coach Stephen Constantine.
Pakistan head coach Jose Antonio Nogueira said: “First half, we did a good job. We pressed well, and we had good chances to score. So did they. But in the second half, we conceded a goal too quickly.
"We tried to score in the last minutes, but could only get one back. Overall, it was a really good game. I think it was the best game of the tournament."
Earlier, Maldives roared when it mattered most as they turned on the power to defeat Nepal 3-0.
Maldives had advanced to the semi-finals without scoring a goal as a coin toss gave them second spot in Group B behind India but they found their scoring boots to earn a first appearance in the final since 2009.
Nepal came into the game high on confidence after they topped Group A with two convincing wins over Bhutan and Bangladesh but Maldives dominated proceedings immediately and captain Akram Abdul Ghanee scored from a free-kick in the eighth minute.
Inclement weather forced play to be halted in the 27th minute with the match resuming 30 minutes later.
Despite coming close a few times, Nepal were unable to penetrate the Maldives’ defence while goalkeeper Mohamed Faisal, who has enjoyed a wonderful tournament so far, was once again on top of his game.
In their desperation to find the equaliser, Nepal were caught by a swift Maldivian counter-attack in the 84th minute and Ibrahim Waheed Hassan (pictured above) slotted the ball into the bottom right corner.
Hassan struck again in the 86th minute to make sure any hope for a dramatic comeback by Nepal was dashed.
“I told my team, it doesn’t matter how we reached the semi-finals. You must reach the final no matter what. I told my players today as well, we will win this game and we will score goals, and we did it," said Maldives coach Petar Segrt.
Nepal coach Bal Gopal Maharjan said: “We played very well. The weather was, of course, an issue but unfortunately, my tactics and substitutions were not effective. I am, however, satisfied with my side’s performance."
Source: Lagardere Sports