New Delhi: The strike duo of Sunil Chhetri and Jeje Lalpekhlua were on target as India recorded a clinical 3-0 win over Sri Lanka to advance to the semifinal of the SAFF Football Championship.
Jeje found the net in the 50th minute of the Group A encounter, while Chhetri consolidated the lead in the 69th minute, as the defending champions finished second to set up a last-four clash with Maldives.
The third was an own goal, by Sri Lanka`s Bandara Warakagoda, off a corner taken by Clifford Miranda in the added time.
Earlier in the day, Afghanistan had thrashed Bhutan 8-1 to top Group A and set up a semifinal date with Nepal.
Both India and Afghanistan finished on seven points with two wins and draw each, but the latter topped the group thanks to their better goal difference.
On a high after their 5-0 win over Bhutan, India needed a draw to qualify, and if their approach was anything to go by, it seemed they would be content with a stalemate.
It would be wrong to say that they did not try in the first half as there were sporadic attempts, but India just could not break the deadlock, even as Sri Lanka too could not conjure up the magic required to see them through.
But this home side`s body language changed dramatically after the change of ends.
And lady luck, which was missing till then, smiled on the home side as Jeje`s right-footer off a rebound put India ahead.
It was Chhetri who took the first shot, but that rebounded off goalkeeper Sujan Pereira, giving Jeje a chance to have a go at the goal.