India romped home to an 8-0 victory against the Maldives in the semi-final of the SAFF U-16 Championship at the Changlimithang Stadium in Thimphu, Bhutan, on Friday, September 8, 2023.
Complete control was the name of the game as the Blue Colts sealed their berth in the final in style, with Mohammad Arbash and Aiborlang Kharthangmaw netting a brace each. Vishal Yadav, Mohammed Kaif, Levis Zangminlun, and Manbhakupar Malngiang netted a goal apiece.
India led 2-0 at the half time and pumped in half a dozen more after the change of ends.
India were in command from the very start, with efforts from Bharat and Levis, which went wide, setting the tone of the proceedings.
The first real chance of the game came when Samson Ahongshanbam’s cross from the left was aimed perfectly at Bharat, whose glancing header went inches wide.
In what turned out to be a deviation in tactics from the last game, right winger Vishal Yadav began to play a more central role, often pulling the Maldives fullback Ahmed Mikyal Muyeen in with him as Levis drifted wide into the space on the wing.
India finally got the breakthrough that they deserved, in the 21st minute, when Karish Soram chipped an aerial through ball as Yadav caused some confusion in the Maldives defence with his diagonal run into the box. He scampered in between two defenders, received the ball and slotted it home with great aplomb.
A little over the half hour mark, Bharat snuck in between the lines and had a crack, but Maldives keeper Ahmed Mifzal was on hand to make the save.
India doubled their lead in the 36th minute when a Mate Ngamgouhou corner was nodded in by Kaif, as the Blue Colts went into the dressing room at the break with a comfortable lead.
The changeover did not change any fortunes for the Maldives, as India came out with more determination to put the game beyond a single shadow of a doubt. Yaipharemba Chingkham cut in from the left and threaded a pass through to Levis, who slotted it into the far post with the inside of his boot.
India head coach Ishfaq Ahmed soon made a host of changes, bringing on Manbhakupar, Yoihenba Meitei, and Aiborlang for Bharat, Mate, and Yadav, respectively. The changes instantly paid further dividends as Aiborlang and Manbhakupar added two more goals in the 62nd and 70th minutes, respectively.
The fourth and fifth goals were split by a rather unusual substitution, as India goalkeeper Suraj Singh came off, giving Rohit the opportunity to get some game time in.
In the closing exchanges, Mohammad Arbash netted two goals, with Aiborlang scoring his own second in between, as India completed the 8-0 rout.
The Blue Colts will now face Bangladesh in the final, who defeated Pakistan 2-1 in the second semifinal. The final is set to kick off on Sunday, September 10, 2023, at 5.30 pm IST.
India XI: Suraj Singh (GK & C) (Rohit 64’); Usham Singh (Abdul Salha 72’), Karish Soram, Mohammed Kaif, Yaipharemba Chingkham; Mate Ngamgouhou (Yoihenba Meitei 57’), Levis Zangminlun, Mohammad Arbash; Vishal Yadav (Aiborlang Kharthangmaw 57’), Bharat Lairenjam (Manbhakupar Malngiang 57’), Samson Ahongshangbam.