July 07 2020
India qualifies
07 December 2011

The difference was striking — Afghanistan played attractive football while India tried to.

The semifinal line-up for the SAFF Championship however, was decided at the Nehru Stadium here on Wednesday.

Though Afghanistan had the weakest opponent to deal with — Bhutan — it won 8-1, playing with infectious energy. India, which had to contend with Sri Lanka, managed a 3-0 verdict. The result was enough for the host to join Afghanistan as the second team from the group.

In the semifinals on Friday, India plays Maldives and Afghanistan takes on Nepal.

Afghanistan continued to improvise and dominate, and the verdict against Bhutan was forged in the backdrop of the melancholy in the Afghan camp, saddened by the bombing deaths back home on Tuesday.

Balal at it again

Balal Arezo was Afghanistan's star once again . He scored four goals while Ata Mohammad Yamrali, Haroon Fakhrudin, Djelaludin Sharityar and Yousef Mashriqi were the other scorers.

Chencho Gyeltshen had the distinction of scoring Bhutan's first goal of the tournament. It was a hopeful long-ranger and it found its way into the goal.

Barring those moments, Bhutan was reduced to just keeping the marauding Afghans at bay.

India unimpressive

On the other hand, the Indians were largely unimpressive. A second half surge was, however, a pleasant diversion from the first.

With Sri Lanka concentrating on man-to-man marking, there was little space for Sunil Chetri and Jeje Lalpekhula. The Indians did not mind playing the waiting game. After all, it was Sri Lanka that needed to win to qualify.

The Indians, after taking time to settle down, exploited the gaps in the Lankan defence through Chetri and Jeje. A breakaway move, which looked innocuous till Chetri took possession, paved the way for the first goal in the 51st minute.

Chetri latched on to a loose ball inside the box and drove powerfully. The Lankan goalkeeper, Sujan Perera, did well to block. Jeje, unmarked and lurking nearby, pounced on the rebound and slotted it home.

India sealed the contest with a second goal, in the 69th minute, thanks to a measured cross by Clifford Miranda. His curling floater was headed home firmly by Chetri. Sri Lanka's woes was complete when Bandara Warakagoda scored an own goal in injury time.

Thursday will be a rest day.



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