India juniors, missing a slew of key players and playing with 10 men for 30 minutes, lost 0-2 to the Maldives in the SAFF Cup, at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka on Wednesday. Both teams qualified for the semifinals.
India's U-23 side will play Bangladesh on Friday and the Maldives will take on Sri Lanka. The last time Dhaka hosted this tournament, in January 2003, India lost to Bangladesh in the penultimate round through a golden goal. Bangladesh then beat the Maldives for the title.
The Maldives, who needed a win after Nepal beat Afghanistan 3-0 earlier on Wednesday, struck first through Ahmed Thoriq's close-range shot.
Goalkeeper Kattimani's poor parrying of a Maldives corner-kick led to the second goal, from Fazeel Ibrahim who volleyed from inside the area.
India striker Balwant Singh was expelled in the 60th minute for a second yellow card. Balwant was first booked for a handball and then for diving. India coach Sukhwinder Singh said it would be known on Thursday whether Balwant is available for the semifinal. “The rules say bookings in the group stage won't be carried forward. Let's see what they do to the red card.”
“It was little harsh,” Singh said, from Dhaka. “The handball wasn't deliberate and believe me, he (Balwant) wasn't playacting.”
The coach also said India were forced to start six new players because of injuries and suspensions. “It wasn't as if we took it easy having already qualified for the semis. We just didn't have a choice,” the coach said.