Ashique Kuruniyan and Lalianzuala Chhangte struck on either side of the break as defending champions India comfortably beat Sri Lanka 2-0 in their opening encounter of the SAFF Cup football tournament on Wednesday. India started the game on a high tempo and Ashique showed his intention within a couple of minutes when he latched the first attack from the left flank. India, fielding the youngest team in the competition, made repeated inroads but the Islanders kept them at bay until the 36th minute when Ashique sped past his marker and slotted it past a diving keeper for his first international goal.
India came close to doubling the lead a number of times but for Chhangte's narrow miss and a number of acrobatic saves by the Sri Lankan goalkeeper. After the change of ends, India scored within a couple of minutes. The trajectory of Chhangte's cross from the wide left was misread by the Sri Lankan goalie and it handed India a 2-0 lead.
Chhangte, by that time, had changed flanks and looked more effective down the left, the Islanders having a torrid time to keep him in check. Nikhil Poojary, who had a season-long injury lay-off, was introduced after the hour-mark and tried his luck off a corner off a Aniruddh Thapa corner but it sailed over the crossbar. Farukh Chowdhury and substitute Manvir Singh also had their chances but were unable to cash in despite staying in advantageous positions.
First, Farukh's shot hit the horizontal in the 75th minute and Manvir failed to connect the rebound, which would have been a sure shot third goal. India now take on Maldives in their next group league match on Sunday.
India: Vishal Kaith; Sarthak Golui, Sajid Dhot, Salam Ranjan Singh, Subhasish Bose (C); Lallianzuala Chhangte, Germanpreet Singh, Anirudh Thapa (Vinit Rai 78th), Ashique Kuruniyan (Nikhil Poojary 57th), Farukh Choudhary, Sumeet Passi (Manvir Singh 70th).