SAFF Cup: Manvir Singh Brace helps India beat Pakistan to reach the final

SAFF Cup: Manvir Singh

Manvir Singh scored twice in the second half before Sumeet Passi clinched a clinical pass as India's defending champions beat Pakistan 3-1 to reach the final of the SAFF Suzuki Cup on Wednesday. After a goalless first half, Manvir scored his first goal in the 49th minute, only to double the score twenty minutes later. The substitute Passi sealed the fate of the game in the 83rd minute. For Pakistan, Hassan Bashir reduced the margin in the 88th minute. India will now face the Maldives in the clash of Saturday's summit. The Maldives made a short work of Nepal 3-0 in the first semifinal.

The first goal came out of a brilliant counterattack. Ashique Kuruniyan ran past everyone on the left and unleashed a low cross that Manvir connected cheerfully to drive the Indian fans crazy. If that was good, the second goal was even better. Lalliazuala Chhangte who replaced Nikhil Poojary in the 68th minute had an immediate impact as India doubled the advantage. The super sub made a scorching run through the middle of the field, dodged two defenders and passed them to Vinit Rai. The midfielder in turn made him shoot Manvir who sent him home from the top of the box.

However, after a challenge, Manvir was replaced when Stephen Constantine brought Sumeet Passi.

The former Academy AIFF cadet took less than a minute to join the party when he found the target in the 83rd. Ashique, the architect of the first goal, made an identical run on the flank to deliver it to Passi, who headed the ball.

However, India was hit when Chhangte was given marching orders for an offside offensive in Mohsin Ali. Mohsin also received a red card for his challenge.

Previously, India had the first chance of the game in the 10th minute, but that time Manvir could not connect Ashique's perfect cross.

The experienced goalkeeper of Pakistan, Yusuf Butt, also made some spectacular saves to keep the Indians at bay in the first half, the most notable being his rescue to deny the volley of Subhashish Bose in a corner of Anirudh Thapa.

India survived a scare in the 39th minute when Pakistan received an indirect free kick on the edge of the 6-yard area, but goalkeeper Vishal Kaith managed to save himself to deny Pakistan.