Kathmandu: India colts set the SAFF under-16 championship alight as they sent hosts Nepal crashing out of the tournament at the Dashrath Stadium here on Monday, to set up a mouth-watering summit clash with arch-rivals Pakistan.
In a gripping encounter, India registered a 4-2 win via a penalty shootout in the second semifinal of the day to book their place in the final to be played on Wednesday.
Group A winner Pakistan progressed to the final after registering an emphatic 2-0 win over Bangladesh in the first semifinal.
In the match between India and Nepal, both the teams were locked at 1-1 after the regulation time. It was the home side, who drew first blood in the 20th minute with Rishi Thapa scoring off a goal-mouth melee. Substitute Nitin Jyal restored parity at the stroke of the final whistle to bring India back into the match.
Both the teams started the match on an aggressive note. India colts were up to the task right from the outset. Striker Vanlalduatsanga's shot was saved off the line by the rival goalkeeper while few minutes later his shot from inside the box could only found the Nepal custodian.
Against the run of play, Nepal took the lead in the 20th minute through Thapa, but Indians didn't crumble under pressure and kept on creating chances.
Daniel could have scored the equaliser in the 22nd minute, but his right footer was just wide of the woodwork. Nepal went to the breather with a 1-0 lead. Nepal captain Heman Gurung's free-kick from outside the box hit the woodwork, while on the other side Vanlalduatsanga, Raja Rawat and Suman Saha missed a sitter each.
Substitute Nitin Jyal, who came in for Germanpreet, scored the equaliser in the dying minutes of the match.
Indian colts kept their cool and converted four out of five spot-kicks while Nepal could only manage two. Vanlalduatsanga, Suman Saha, Myron Mendes and Harmanjot Singh scored for India, while Lalrammuana hit the crossbar.
Also, Supratim Bhattacharya was the star of the show as he not only pulled off to great saves during the match, but also saved two penalties on the trot.
A satisfied India U-16 coach, Thomas Joseph was once again all praise for his boys and said, "I am extremely happy with their performance. They played their heart out and showed character. Also we missed so many chances, but nevertheless it's a part and parcel of the game and we hope to continue the same momentum against Pakistan in the finals."