Sports

India U-18 football team beat Maldives 4-0 to reach final of SAFF Championship

The Indian football team hammered Maldives 4-0 to storm into the final of the SAFF U-18 Championship on Friday.

Narender Gahlot (7th), Manvir Singh (79th) and Ninthoinganba Meetei (81st) found the target for India while Maldives’ Ahnaf Rasheedh (45’+1’) scored an own goal on the stroke of half time to make it an emphatic victory for India.

India now play Bangladesh in the summit clash on Sunday.

India looked to attack from the start and reaped the reward early on, when centre-back Narender, who had impressed for the senior team in the Intercontinental Cup, rose the highest and headed the ball past the keeper into the net.

The Indians created a flurry of chances, and Givson had the opportunity to score when he headed a cross from the left towards the top corner. However, the Maldives keeper Hassan Aleef kept it out.

Around the half-hour mark, Ninthoi worked a short corner and crossed it in, but Jeakson Singh’s shot on the volley whistled inches wide.

Maldives started to create a few chances towards the end of the first half, when Ahmed Husaam made his way into the Indian box and earned a corner. The Islanders also worked a short corner, as captain Hassan Nazeem got past a defender, entered the box, and seemingly went down under some pressure. However, the referee was having none of it and waved play on.

India coach Floyd Pinto brought on some defensive reinforcement in the second half, as Akash Mishra came on for Aman Chetri, pushing Ravi Rana to the left-wing.

It took Ravi some time to get going as a left-winger, but he came into his own after the hour mark, making off-the-ball darts runs into the middle. Jeakson managed to find him on one of these occasions and set him through on goal. However, the eventual shot was punched away.

Maldives had an opportunity to pull one goal back with less than 20 minutes remaining on the clock, when some pressing by their forwards resulted in Ahmed Samaah gaining possession of the ball inside the Indian penalty box. However, the Indian defence averted the danger.

Second-half substitute Manvir made it 3-0 with a little over 10 minutes to go in the match.

Soon after, it was right-winger Ninthoi, who beautifully sent a volley from outside the Maldives area into the back of the net, making it 4-0 for India.

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