The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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India move into semis

Hyderabad: India booked their place in the soccer semi-finals when they downed Malaysia 2-0 in a Group A match at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium here Friday.

After a lacklustre performance in the barren first half, the hosts went on the offensive and found the lead in the 50th minute through Jatin Singh Bisht. Veteran I. M. Vijayan increased the margin 12 minutes later.

Malaysia will now play Rwanda on Sunday to decide the other qualifier from the group.

Despite coming here with their youth team, Malaysia did well in the first half denying India a goal. Norhisham Hassan created several openings putting the Indians under pressure, but ’keeper Sangram Mukherjee was upto the task.

The deteriorating ground condition, which had lost most of its grass after matches were held on a soggy turf on Wednesday, made things difficult for both the teams.

The first half saw a goal by captain Bhaichung Bhutia being ruled off-side, but the star striker put in a much better show than what was on offer against Rwanda.

Malaysia got a chance in the 11th minute when Hassan came up with a good try, but Tomba Singh made a goalline save.

India went all out in the second session and tasted instant success when Bisht headed in a Tomba cross, catching the Malaysian custodian Arsidi off guard.

Vijayan, who scored the first goal of the tournament, exhibited his class as he produced a beauty of a lob to put India up 2-0.

The move began with substitute Krishnan Nair Ajayan, who ran down the left flank and crossed the ball into the middle. Receiving a short pass from Tomba, Vijayan exhibited his experience as he deftly controlled the ball before finding the target.

India took total control from then on with Ajayan, Tomba and Vijayan keeping the Malaysian defence busy.

Coach Stephen Constantine, who was unhappy with the way Indians played in the first half, felt their game improved after the break. “We did not play well in the first half. Ground was very bad, worse than the first day.”

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