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India enter semis in menís football
Sports reporter

Indian player Pritam Kotal (blue) attempts to beat Maldives goalkeeper Mohamed Jazlan during their South Asian Games football match at the SAI field in Guwahati on Wednesday. Ė AT Photo
 GUWAHATI, Feb 10 - India managed to cruise into the last-four stage of the menís football event of the 12th South Asian Games.

In a crucial group A league match at the SAI ground here today, India earned a hard-fought 3-2 victory against Maldives. Both the teams entered the semifinal stage claiming three points each. The other team of the group, Sri Lanka also have three points but in goal difference Maldives took the top slot while India ensured the second.

It was an entertaining encounter as both the teams adopted attacking tactics from the initial stage. India went ahead in the fifth minute when Kuman Udanta Singh volleyed home from a close range.

But the lead did not last long as Muruthala Adnan drew parity with a sharp volley after receiving the ball off a flag kick in the 10th minute. It was Indian defender Pritom Kotal who put the home team ahead in the 12th minute with a header off a corner kick.

In the 42nd minute, Maldives equalised again when the ball entered into the Indian goal off a shot taken by Ahmed Nashid deflecting from Indian defender Kotal.

After the action packed first session India fired the match winning goal through Kuman who gently lobbed the ball into the net over an advancing Maldives custodian Mohamed Jazlan who was not in his best form today.

Now India will play against the top team of the group B consisting of Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. The semifinals and the final will be played at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, Sarusajai from February 13.

The nimble footed Maldives players were better in individual skills in comparison to the Indian players. Frontliners Mohamed Hamza, Hasan Niyaz and Ansar Ibrahim kept the Indian defenders busy throughout the course. They should have had at least three more goals. But it was the Indian attacker Mawihmingthanga who squandered the easiest scoring opportunity of the match in the very fourth minute. He failed to beat the opponent goalkeeper from a point blank range.

Todayís match: Nepal vs Bangladesh (Gr B from 2 pm).

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