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India pump in three to enter last four

sports Updated: Dec 08, 2011 01:14 IST
Tomojit Basu
Tomojit Basu
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

India made it to the 2011 SAFF Championship semi-final in style beating Sri Lanka 3-0 in their final Group A outing in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Having walloped Bhutan 5-0 on Monday and being held by surprise group toppers Afghanistan 1-1 in the opener, the hosts needed just a draw to advance.

India will now face Group B winners, Maldives, on Friday.

The first half was a lacklustre affair with both sides creating good buildups only to be let down by the lack of a killer punch in the final third. India coach Savio Medeira stuck to the line-up that had started against Bhutan but the southern neighbours were determined not to be pushovers as numerically they had a chance to head to the knockouts. However, their 4-1-4-1 formation left lone striker Nipuna Bandara isolated and the much-touted right midfielder, Mohd Zain, was superbly kept in check by India left-back Syed Rahim Nabi.

At the other end, Sunil Chhetri and Jeje Lalpekhlua were kept at bay by the Sri Lankan central defence. Lalpekhlua had the best chance of the half when the ball was headed his way inside the box by captain Climax Lawrence in the 41st-minute. The diminutive striker chested it down to turn and volley but the horizontal prevented what would have been a classy lead.

The defending champions appeared a different side after the breather, looking more confident in their combination play in the middle and the deliveries from wide midfielders Clifford Miranda and Anthony Pereira. It caught the visitors by surprise and Lalpekhlua made it 1-0 in the 50th minute calmly finishing Chhetri’s strike.

Sri Lanka were kept on the backfoot for much of the second half with India keeper Karanjit Singh having a most leisurely evening. Chhetri widened the gap in the 69th-minute when he outjumped marker Warakagoda to a Miranda cross past a poorly placed Perera. Sri Lanka exited the tournament by burying themselves with an own-goal.