New Delhi: Hosts India rode onto brilliant Sunil Chhetri and Jeje Lalpekhlua goals to beat Maldives 3-2 in the semi-final of the 2015 SAFF Cup at the Trivandrum International Stadium, on Thursday.
The six-time champions played like champions to beat Maldives in a match which could have gone either way. Stephen Constantine ‘s men hold their nerve in the closing stages of the match to pull off a deserving win.
India started on a cautious note with Maldives controlling the early proceedings. But soon, India wrested the initiative with attacks coming from both the flanks.
And in the 25th minute Chhetri produced a brilliant header to give India lead from a teasing Holicharan Narzary cross from the right.
Within nine minutes, the work-horse in Jeje showed his calm by slotting home the second goal from yet another Narzary set-up.
In between, Maldives continued to break Indian defence, creating enough chances but their first goal came in first half injury time from a brave Ali Ashfaq play. He set up Ahmed Nashid to the scoreboard.
The second half started with Indian taking complete control of the match. And after the hour mark, Jeje double his count to give India a 3-1 lead. The 65th minute strike resulted from a good run from skipper Sunil Chhetri, who cut inside the box from the left and left Jeje at a vantage position.
In between, both the teams had utilised their bench strenth and with that arrived India’s hero in the Nepal match – Lallianzuala Chhangte. The 18-year-old replaced the skipper and he soon get into the business making intelligent runs.
But the next move came from the Maldives, Amdaan Ali heading home their second goal. He was, in a way, helped by a sleepy Indian defence to jump to connect from a corner in the 75th minute.
India, despite creating many more chances including a close one from Chhangte, failed to increase the lead. And after four minutes of injury time, India celebrated their way to the final even as the setting sun produced a picturesque scenery at Trivandrum.
India will play the winner of defending champions Afghanistan and Sri Lanka in the title match.