SAFF U-18 C’ship: Enterprising India thrashes Maldives, moves into final

The Indian U-18 football team will now face old foe Bangladesh in the final, on Sunday.

Keen tussle: Manvir Singh (right) in action against Maldives on Friday. Photo: AIFF Media

The Indian U-18 football team booked its spot in the final of the SAFF U-18 Championship 2019 with a 4-0 demolition of Maldives in Kathmandu on Friday.

Narender Gahlot (7'), Manvir Singh (79') and Ninthoinganba Meetei (81') scored three goals for India, and Maldives’ Ahnaf Rasheedh (45'+1') scored an own goal on the stroke of half time.

Early attack

India attacked right from the outset. Centre-back Narender Gahlot rose above the rest of the pack and guided his header past the goalkeeper to give his side the lead. Soon after, Givson had the opportunity to double the lead; he headed a cross from the left towards the top corner. However, an outstretched hand by Maldives keeper Hassan Aleef kept it out.

Around the half-hour mark, Ninthoi worked a short corner and crossed it in, but Jeakson Singh’s shot on the volley whistled inches wide. Ninthoi looked lively on the right flank, creating problems for the Maldives defenders, He linked up well with full-back Thoiba Singh.

Maldives started to create a few chances towards the end of the first half, when Ahmed Husaam made his way into the Indian box and earned a corner. The team opted for a short corner; captain Hassan Nazeem made his way past a defender, entered the box, and seemingly went down under some pressure. But the referee waved play on.

India head coach Floyd Pinto brought on defender Akash Mishra in the second half; he replaced Aman Chetri, pushing Ravi Bahadur Rana to the left wing. Mishra soon had a chance to score from a set-piece, but his effort was gathered by the Maldives goalkeeper.

Off-the-ball darts

It took Ravi Bahadur some time to get going as a left-winger, but he came into his own after the hour mark, making off-the-ball darts runs into the middle. Jeakson managed to find him on one of these occasions and set him through on goal. However, the eventual shot was punched away.

Maldives had an opportunity to pull one goal back with less than 20 minutes remaining on the clock, when some pressing by its forwards resulted in Ahmed Samaah gaining possession of the ball inside the Indian penalty box. However, the Indian defence was on his case in an instant, and the danger was averted by captain Jitendra Singh.

Second-half substitute Manvir Singh made it three with a little over 10 minutes to go in the second half, as he got on to the ball after it was spilt by the Maldives keeper inside the box, and turned it in.

Soon after, Ninthoi beautifully leathered a volley from outside the Maldives area into the back of the net, making it a four-goal lead for India.

In the final, India is set to face old foe Bangladesh. The contest is set to get underway at 2.45 pm IST on Sunday.

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