India beat Bhutan; enter SAFF final

Gourmangi Singh's strike in the dying minutes takes India to a 2-1 win. They will now meet Maldieves in the SAFF Championship final.

updated: June 15, 2008 18:00 IST
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Gourmangi Singh's last gasp goal in the second half of the extra time helped India scrape past a spirited Bhutan 2-1 and set up a title clash with Maldives in the SAFF Championship here today.

After the the regulation time ended in a 1-1 stalemate, a penalty shootout looked the only way out of the impasse when Gourmangi's curling shot cleared India's passage to the final in Colombo.

In the other semifinal, Maldives beat Sri Lanka 1-0.

Bhutan took the lead in the 18th minute through the talismanic Kinley Dorji before India equalised in the 30th minute via Sunil Chetri.

In the previous match too, Gourmangi had scored the all-important goal when India beat Maldives.

India's profligate forwards, including captain Bhaichung Bhutia, either lost plot once they reached the rival box or squandered opportunities that came their way.

Throughout the match, Bob Houghton's wards were stretched by their unfancied rivals and the coach heaved a huge sigh of relief after managing to advance to the final.

India could have gone 1-0 up inside six minutes but Bhutia's header ricocheted off the vertical bar and then Chetri's powerful shot from outside the box had Bhutan custodian Jingme Singey fumbling before gathering the ball in his second attempt.

The match turned out to be a nightmare for India's N P Pradeep as he missed umpteen chances.
Bhutan grabbed the lead with Dorji's 18th minute strike even though it came against the run of the play, when he capitalised on a defensive lapse.

Chetri, however, brought smiles back in the Indian camp when he received a Pradeep pass and had all the time at his disposal to slot it home in the 30th minute.

After the breather, Pradeep's header off a Steven Dias corner was saved from goal-line, while Bhutia's effort from a narrow angle was off-target.

The slipshod show continued in the extra time as well. A Pradeep piledriver was fisted away by the Bhutan goalie, while Climax Lawrence twice found himself in the perfect position inside the box but on both occasions shot wide.

A tie-breaker looked imminent and sensing that Bhutan even changed their custodian too.

However, it was not to be as India won a free kick in the last few minutes of the second extra time and the ball reached Pradeep inside the box. The Indian forward made a mess of the shot and the ball luckily fell on the feet of Gourmangi who took a half turn and unleashed a curling shot that beat the goalkeeper all ends up.