Defending champions Maldives cruised to the semifinals of the Bangabandhu SAFF Championship with a facile 2-0 victory over India at the Bangabandhu National Stadium Wednesday. India finished the mach with ten men losing forward Balwant Singh for his second yellow card in the mid second half.
The victory put Maldives at the top of the group A with seven points, followed by India who has six. Nepal took the exit door finishing third with four and Afghanistan failed to earn any point. As group A champion Maldives will play the first semifinal against group B runners-up Sri Lanka on Friday while group B champion Bangladesh takes on group A runners-up India in the second semifinal on the same day.
India rested their reliable custodian Arindam, midfielder skipper Sushil Kumar alongwith Manish Mathani and Robert Lalthamuana and the newlook outfit failed to cope with the pressure. Maldives attacked from the very beginning and the Indians withhold the onslaught for the first quarter of the hour. But Maldives managed to break the resistance in the 16th minute through their ace spearhead Ahmed Thoriq.
Skipper Ashfaq Ali perfectly curled a cross from the right flank that found Thoriq in the edge of the six yard box, and the wily scorer hammered home wrongfooting Indian custodian Laxmikant Kattimani.
India pushed forward through the flanks and tried the aerial route but only one of their efforts came close while overlapping right back Jewel Raja Shaikh danced down his flank and curled cross but agile Maldives custodian palmed away the incoming ball stretching to his limit.
India would have restored the parity in the 48th minute as Balwant singh managed to break through the right flank but the forward blasted the ball wide of the side post from the edge of the six yard box.
Ashfaq who decided to go upfront from his midfield role tormented the Indian defence on many occasions and his rasping grounder from the middle of the box in the 56th minute whiskered past the left hand post.
Balwant was sent off in the 61st minute for his second bookable offence reducing India to ten men.
Asfaq continued to penetrate the opposition defence but the left footer after a solo effort rested in the outside net.
However Fazeel Ibrahim sealed the fate of the match seven minutes off the final whistle as Laxmikant lost control of a Ashfaq corner in his spot jump and nearby standing Fazeel hit the top of the net with a cracker.
Fazeel would have completed his hat-trick in the stoppage time but his diagonal placing beat Laxmikant but Ravinder Singh saved India from conceding the third.