A patchy India hung on to two first-half goals to edge out Pakistan 2-1 for their second successive win in the SAFF Cup, at the Maldives National Stadium in Male on Thursday. Having lost both matches, Pakistan, who had stunned India in the opening match of the 2003 edition of this competition, are out.
Looking decidedly lacklustre after the breather, India survived a late charge and some terrible defending to almost get a foot into the semifinals. NP Pradeep struck again, this time with a screaming 35 yard right-footer. Steven Dias bolstered the tally, being at the right place to receive the ball from Bhaichung Bhutia after the skipper exchanged a passes with Sunil Chhetri.
Pakistan were denied by Subrata Pal in the 10th minute when the India goalkeeper first saved Zahid Hammed's shot before keeping out Mohammad Qasim's header off the rebound. Pal was again called into action five minutes later, when Zahid executed another powerful shot. At the stroke of 90 minutes, they came close to an equaliser off a free-kick and once again Qasim, with only Pal to beat, ballooned over. They scored through Adnan Farooq who headed home a corner-kick.
For most of the second half, India lacked focus and discipline. Once each Dipak Mondal, again playing on the right side of the defence, and Bungo Singh passed to Pakistan players inside the area. Bhutia was again replaced near the hour-mark by Sushil Singh who saw his second yellow card and will miss the match against the Maldives.
“Maybe a bit of complacency had crept in after leading 2-0. But we won eventually and that's what matters,” manager Pradip Chowdhury said.
Those who played for India: Subrata Pal; Dipak Mondal, Mahesh Gawli, Gourmangi Singh, Samir Naik; Steven Dias (Bungo Singh), Climax Lawrence, N.P. Pradeep (Mehrajuddin Wadoo), Renedy Singh; Bhaichung Bhutia (Sushil Singh), Sunil Chhetri.
Day’s result: India 2 (Pradeep, 25th, Dias, 45th) beat Pakistan 1 (Farooq, 88th)