India have made it through to the South Asian Football Federation Cup (SAFF) after beating Maldives 2-0 in a dominant display at Dhaka, Bangladesh on Sunday.
Stephen Constantine’s U23 side topped Group B in their final group game leaving India to play arch-rivals Pakistan in an official semi-final match after a gap of five years.
The last time the two sides met in an official match was also in a SAFF Championship game back in September 2013 in Kathmandu India had won 1-0 on that occasion.
Of the two debutants it was Maldives that started the better with some initial pressure, winning a series of corners. But after 10 minutes the game was more in the balance and once India took the lead, they had the momentum on their side.
India went into the lead in the 37th minute after Poojary cut past a number of defenders and played a brilliant one-two with Farukh before calmly slotting the ball past the keeper to register his maiden international goal.
India doubled their lead on the stroke of half time after FC Goa forward Manvir Singh took advantage of Maldives’ defensive error to rush forward inside the penalty box, side-step the goalkeeper and slot the ball into an empty net, for his first goal of his senior career, which he later described as the “most delightful moment” as a footballer.
“Scoring for the country is always special. The first goal – it’s a different emotion. I was sniffing around but the goal was eluding me,” he quipped.
“So finally, when I made it, it was the most delightful moment for me as a footballer. The win has been a result of our team game and now we’re looking forward to the semi-finals.”
After the match Constantine said of the upcoming match which will be played at the Bangabandhu National Stadium on Wednesday.
“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.”