SAFF Cup: India beats Maldives 2-0, to face Pakistan in semis

India cruised to a comfortable 2-0 win over Maldives to set up a semifinal clash against Pakistan in the 2018 SAFF Championship.

The Indian team registered two wins in two games to top Group B with six points.   -  LAGARDERE SPORTS

India trounced Maldives 2-0 to seal a semi-final clash against arch rivals Pakistan in the 2018 SAFF Championship. The two teams will clash on Wednesday for the first five years. The last time the two teams had met in an official match was also in a SAFF Championship in Kathmandu in September 2013. India had won 1-0 on that occasion.

Maiden international goals from Nikhil Poojary and Manvir Singh helped India soar to a comfortable 2-0 in on Sunday and finish on top of Group B with 6 points.

IND vs MDV: AS IT HAPPENED

Nikhil had a chance to score the opener in the 11th minute but his header sailed well over the crossbar. Nikhil and Lallianzuala Chhangte constantly switched positions on the wings and stretched the rival defence.

India eventually surged into the lead in the 36th minute. Nikhil played a one-two with Farukh and as the rival defender fumbled his interception, Nikhil pounced on the loose ball and slotted it past Maldives goalkeeper Mohamed Faisal to make it 1-0.

Manvir doubled the lead at the stroke of interval. Thapa played a gem of a pass for Manvir, who rounded the onrushing Maldives custodian to slam the ball into an empty goal.

The Indians continued their attacking display in the second half and forced a couple of good saves from Faisal early in the half.

Maldives, on the other hand, continued to look to reduce the margin but simply failed to find the target. Captain Akram Ghanee let one rip from distance in the 72nd minute but his shot zoomed just wide of the post, while Naiz Hassan had a chance the next minute but he too failed to direct his attempt on goal.

India goalkeeper Vishal Kaith made a couple of crucial saves in the dying moments of the game to record his second clean sheet of the tournament. Substitute Hitesh Sharma had a chance to make it 3-0 to India in added time but his powerful header missed the target by a whisker. 

India will play Pakistan in the second round while Bhutan's opponent remains undecided. Confusion prevails on whether Maldives or Sri Lanka will advance from Group A as both teams have finished with one point each and the same goal difference.