SAG football: India beats Bangladesh in semi-final

Three-time champion India, which had last played the final in the 2004 Games in Islamabad before losing against host Pakistan, made most of the home support, to defeat Bangaldesh 3-0 in the semi-final.

Kumam Udanta Singh (10) celebrates after scoring the first goal against Bangladesh in the semi final   -  Ritu Raj Konwar

Jayesh Dilip Rane scores the third goal against Bangladesh in the semi-final football match   -  Ritu Raj Konwar

India corrected its poor South Asian Games football record by convincingly outsmarting holder Bangladesh 3-0 in the first semi-final here at the Indira Gandhi Stadium on Saturday. Kuman Udanta Singh, Jerry Mawihmingthanga and Jayesh Rane found the target once each to help the host reach the first final after 12 years and post two editions of the Games.

Three-time champion India, which had last played the final in the 2004 Games in Islamabad before losing against host Pakistan, made the most of the home support to realise the passage to the title round. Casting away the starting blues that saw it losing the first match against Sri Lanka (0-1), the host put up a much reformed performance to subdue the challenge of its Eastern neighbour.

The path to the final posed two challenges. The first was about sorting out the inherent disorder in a hastily prepared side and second lay in overcoming a tough-playing opponent. The host tackled both quite efficiently under its youth coach Lee Johnson, who termed the win a journey from chaos to cosmos.

The India under-23 team established its superiority, after some initial hesitancy, when Udanta Singh found the net from a 21st minute opportunity presented by a faulty clearance by Bangladesh defender and captain Razaul Karim (Senior). Udanta, who plays for Bengaluru FC colours in the I-League, showed the right goal-poaching skills that compensated for the sluggishness of the team’s main striker Halicharan Narzary.

The early break firmed up the resolve of the host which doubled its aggression with more raids into the opposition box. Young Jerry Mawihmingthanga, playing in a withdrawn position behind Narzary in the Indian attack, got the next goal with a rasping right-footer from the top of the box in the 41st minute. The India under-19 player, who plays for the I-League side DSK Shivajians, was quite impressive in the box giving the Bangladesh defence a hard time to contain him.

The two-goal deficit at half-time compounded the frustration of the visitor, which resorted to rough play to upset the rhythm of the host. Bangladesh’s insipidity on the field was compensated by the dramatics of its Spanish coach Gonzalo Sanchez Moreno, who made violent gestures while mouthing audible objection to the decisions of Nepalese referee Laba Khatri. As the coach refused to relent after a few warnings, he was sent off the ground in the 62nd minute. Couple of minutes later, Bangladesh conceded the third goal when Udanta Singh released Jayesh Rane to do the finishing act and complete the host’s dominance of the visitor.

Taking the cue from their coach, Bangladesh players also got involved in unsporting behaviour as they kept rushing to the referee and his assistants almost at every decision. This came to such a pass that Khatri was mobbed by the visiting players after the match and the match supervisor had to flash a red card at Jamal Bhuyan (senior) in a bid to prevent them from turning more violent. After the match, the Bangladesh assistant coach Syed Golam Gilani continued the bad blood saying that, “the home team was given the advantage by the referee.”

Indian will take on Nepal, which beat Maldives 4-3 in extra-time in the other semifinal, in the final of the men's football. Nepal was in the lead 2-0 at the break before the match was pushed to extra time by Maldives which it 2-2 in the regulation time. The highlight of the match was a hat-trick by the Nepal striker Nawayug Shreshta, who scored the winning goal with less than a minute remaining of the final whistle.

The result: India 3 (Kuman Udanta Singh 21, Jerry Mawihmingthanga 41, Jayesh Rane 64) bt Bangladesh 0.

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