India reached the final of South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) championship after beating defending champion Maldives 3-1 at Male last night. Manvir Singh had given India the lead in the 33rd minute but Ali Ashfaq scored a penalty to level the tie before half-time. Later India bounced back through their talisman Sunil Chhetri, who smashed a loose ball shortly after the hour-mark in the 62 minute. He then doubled his tally in 71 minute with a looping header.
Seven-time champions India will take on first-time finalist Nepal in the title match on Saturday. Captain Chhetri was the man of the match for helping India to qualify for the final of the competition for the eighth successive time. Chhetri’s two goals took him beyond Brazilian legend Pele and he is now just one short of Lionel Messi’s goal tally of 80 international goals. The match was also marked with a number of bookings, with two members of the Indian contingent – Subhasish Bose and head coach Igor Stimac sent off at the later stage of the match. India remained undefeated in this edition, having earlier played out draws with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and then beating Nepal.