Afghanistan downed Sri Lanka 5-0 at the Trivandrum International Stadium, Kerala to book their berth in the finals of the SAFF Championship where they shall face the Indian challenge.
Goals from Mohammed Hashami (46’), Kanischka Taher (50’), Khaibar Amani (55’), Ahmad Hatifie (78’) and Faysal Shayesteh (89’) were enough to continue their unbeaten run into the finals.
Afghanistan coach Petr Segrt made as many as seven changes to the line-up which started against Maldives. The likes of Norlla Amiri, Mustafa Hadid, Kanischka Taher and others made their way into the first eleven.
Sampath Perera made three changes to the team which suffered 2-0 defeat at the hands of India. Mohammed Hakeem, Mohammmed Rifnas and Kavindu Ishan were named in the starting line-up.
It was the Lankans who had a chance to take the lead in the third minute. Nipuna Bandara got beyond the Afghan defence but a soft touch inside the box allowed the goalkeeper to avert the danger.
Midway through the first half, Kanischka played a looping ball which needed to be guided in but Popalzay couldn’t connect.
The deadlock was broken in the injury time. A long ball from the right was headed across by Masih Saighani which was slotted home by Mohammed Hashami.
It took five minutes into the second half for Afghanistan to double their lead. Amiri plays a through-ball for Popalzay who laid it back for Kanischka. The 24-year-old slammed his shot into the back of the net.
Afghanistan were awarded a penalty five minutes later when Mohamed Hakeem brought down Popalzay. Khaibar Amani successfully converted from the spot to score his fourth goal in the competition.
Sri Lanka had a chance to pull one back in the 69th minute. Zohar Zarwan’s free-kick was deflected and the eventual shot from Gnanaruban was kept out by Ovays Azizi.
Ahmad Hatifie added his name on the score-sheet. Kanischa’s free-kick found Hatifie in space who connected his header to make it 4-0 for the Afghans.
The fifth goal came in the 89th minute. Popalzay found Zazai who opted to play it back for skipper Faysal Shayesteh whose left footed curled gave the goalkeeper no chance to make a save whatsoever.
The score-line remained the same until the final whistle as Afghanistan, who have scored 16 goals in their four games in this edition of the SAFF Championship, come up against India on Sunday in what promises to be an enthralling final.
Mustafa Zazai came close to scoring but his shot took a deflection off Sujan Perera and came off the underside of the crossbar and back into the hands of the goalkeeper.