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Thiruvananthapuram: Afghanistan will defend their SAFF Championship title against seven-time regional champions India after the title holders cruised to a comfortable 5-0 win over Sri Lanka in Thursday’s semi-final.

Afghanistan dominated the final-four fixture at the Trivandrum International Stadium and after Mohammad Hashemi had broken the deadlock on the stroke of half time, the defending champions scored four times without reply after the interval, with Kanischka Taher, Khaibar Amani, substitute Ahmad Hatifie (pictured) and skipper Faysal Shayesteh all getting on the scoresheet as defending champions set up a mouthwatering final showdown on Sunday against 2015/16 SAFF Championship hosts India, who edged the Maldives 3-2 in the earlier semi-final.

After controlling the opening exchanges, Afghanistan finally took the lead in first-half stoppage time when Sri Lanka’s attempt to play the offside trap failed and left keeper Sujan Perera totally exposed, with Hashemi side-footing home after Masih Saighani had headed a lofted ball over the top of the defence across the face of goal, where three Afghan attackers were poised to apply the finishing touch.

Kanischka Taher extend the lead six minutes into the second half after the firing home a layoff off from Omid Popalzay, who played a key role in Afghanistan’s third four minutes later when he was upended in the area by Mohammad Hakeem allowing Khaibar Amani to confidently netted his fourth of the tournament from the resultant penalty.

Taher turned provider for Afghanistan’s fourth in the 78th minute when his deep free-kick was knocked past Sri Lanka skipper Perera via a cushioned header from Hatifie before the post came to Sri Lanka’s rescue in the 84th minute as Mustafa Zazai’s shot bounced back off the woodwork.

But Afghanistan were not to be denied a fifth, with skipper Faysal Shayesteh sweeping home from just inside the area in the final minute to complete the comprehensive victory.

Photo: Lagardère Sports

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