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Sri Lanka no match for young Indian side

  • Published at 10:51 pm September 5th, 2018
Action from the Saff Championship match between India and Sri Lanka in Dhaka Wednesday Dhaka Tribune/Md Manik

The victory almost secured India a place in the last-four before they take on tournament’s second favourite Maldives in their last group match Sunday

Reigning champion India began their Saff Suzuki Cup 2018 campaign justifying their pre-tournament favourite tag as they handed Sri Lanka a dominating 2-0 defeat in their opening Group B match at Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka Wednesday evening.

Midfielder Ashique Kuruniyan scored his first international goal to put India ahead in the 35th minute, slotting home past the Sri Lankan goalkeeper into the far post with a left-footed finish. Ashique broke into the right side of the penalty area after collecting a superb through pass from forward Sumeet Passi.

Left-back Lallianzuala Chhangte doubled the lead two minutes into the second half. After outpacing his marker Bandara Ratnayake outside the left side of the box, Lallianzuala’s left-footed curved effort went deep into the top-right corner.

India team comprised of only U-23 players created plenty of chances throughout the game but lacked the finishing touch up front while the experienced Sri Lankan keeper Sujan Perera made some brilliant saves, although his teammates in the attacking half rarely created any notable chances.

Midfielder Sajid Dhot could have doubled the lead three minutes after the opening goal but his header from a cross by Lallianzuala forced Perera into a decent save. Perera, who plays in the Male League, produced a couple of brilliant saves in the second half as well, including one in the 75th minute where India were denied from capitalising on two of their closest opportunities. 

Faruk Kasam saw his left-footer hit the woodwork before substitute forward Manvir Singh’s volley on the rebound was saved by the Lankan keeper.

The victory almost secured India a place in the last-four before they take on tournament’s second favourite Maldives in their last group match Sunday. Sri Lanka take on Maldives Friday and another defeat or draw for the former would send India officially into the semi-final.

Constantine: Not underestimating Saff

Seven-time champion India are the only team among the seven participating countries in the Saff Championship who sent their U-23 players to represent the national side in south Asia’s biggest regional football event.

India’s English head coach Stephen Constantine talked to the local media for the first time since their arrival in Dhaka. 

One of the questions after their win against Sri Lanka raised was whether the highest-ranked team in the region were underestimating the tournament.

“We have qualified for the Asian Cup and we need to put pressure on the senior players so they can always look over their shoulder. It’s really good in developing players. I don’t underestimate this event at all. Just for us, I think, it’s great opportunity to give the young players some chance,” he said.  

“Look at the age group of U-23s, how many tournaments do they have? They have the Olympics and the Asian Games. Where do the boys play after these tournaments?” inquired Constantine.

“We are trying to build a team for the next five-six years. Saff gives us a great opportunity because the pressure is less. Giving the young boys international experience, I think, is extremely better for the team now.”


India 2 (Ashique 35, Chhangte 47) 0 Sri Lanka