Nikhil and Manvir are on target
Calcutta: India finished as winners of Group B after beating the Maldives 2-0 in a SAFF Championship match at the Bangabandhu Stadium in Dhaka, on Sunday.
Nikhil Poojary (36th) opened the scoring while Manvir Singh (44th) doubled the lead right before the break to help India finish with six points and set up a semi-final date with Group A runners-up Pakistan.
Stephen Constantine made five changes from their 2-0 win over Sri Lanka. Davinder Singh, Jerry Lalrinzuala, Vinit Rai, Nikhil Poojary and Manvir Singh came in for Sarthak Golui, Mohammed Sajid Dhot, Germanpreet Singh, Ashique Kuruniyan and Sumeet Passi.
Nikhil Poojary could have turned architect and scorer of two goals within the first 15 minutes itself. First, Mohammed Arif headed the ball into his own post, nearly escaping an own goal which was a result of Poojary's initial cross.
Captain Anirudh Thapa, from the edge of the box, fed a ball to the former East Bengal man whose header sailed over the bar.
The 23-year-old made amends and got the opener. Poojary, making his first competitive start since an ACL injury sidelined him since October 2017 won the ball near the touchline and made a solo run towards goal. A swift one-two with Farukh Choudhary and the winger scored his maiden India goal.
Right on the stroke of half-time, Manvir Singh too got his first goal for the nation.
The Maldives defence faltered and Thapa saw an opportunity to pass forward to the FC Goa man. The striker rounded up the goalkeeper and slotted home into an empty net.
Maldives were insipid and the gulf in class showed as India kept on gifting set-piece opportunities but Petar Segrt's men failed to capitalise throughout the whole game.