A patchy India hung on to two first half goals to beat Pakistan 2-1 for their second win on the trot in the SAFF Championship at the Maldives National Stadium in Male on Thursday.
In the Group A match that never rose to great heights, India scored through NP Pradeep (25th minute) and Steven Dias (45th) while Pakistan reduced the margin in the 88th minute through Adnan Farooq.
Defending champion India, who began the tournament with a 4-0 thumping of Nepal on Tuesday, were good only in patches and justified their top billings in the first half only to fizzle out in the second session.
After Thursday's win, India are virtually through to the semifinals with six points from two wins after as many matches.
Pakistan, on the other hand, are out of the reckoning with two losses from two matches, having lost 0-3 to hosts Maldives in their first match.
Pakistan almost took the lead in the 10th minute but captain Zahid Hammed's shot from inside six-yard box was blocked by Indian goalkeeper Subrata Pal and Mohd Qasim's subsequent header was again saved by the custodian from the goal line to the relief of a sizeable Indian supporters at the stands.
In the 17th minute, it was the turn of the Indians to raid the Pakistan goal but unmarked Steven Dias' shot from just outside the Pakistan penalty area sailed over the bar.
Five minutes later, Zahid executed another powerful shot outside the India penalty area, but Pal was at it again to thwart the attempt.
With no side having the upper hand till then, Pradeep found the space in the 25th minute to unleash a scorcher from outside the box which hit the back of the net with Pakistan goalkeeper Bilal Rafiq caught by surprise.
Three minutes later, Qasim got the best opportunity to level the score but he was too slow to execute and gave enough time for the Indians to clear avert the danger.
At the stroke of half-time, India captain Baichung Bhutia, who had a low key presence today, fed a wonderful thorough pass for hard running Dias who beat the diving Pakistani keeper to give his side 2-0 lead at the breather.
The second half had nothing much to write home about. The match slowed down and both the sides played unimaginative football. The Indians had mispasses galore and there was no imaginative build ups for attacks either.
Sunil Chetri got a chance five minutes into the second half but his header was saved by the diving Pakistan goalkeeper. On another occasion, Chetri's shot from inside the box went over the crossbar.
In the 68th minute, Qasim wasted a free shot at the Indian goal as his attempt was several feet above the crossbar.
Pakistan cut the deficit two minutes before full time through Adnan Farooq's header off a corner.
A minute later, Farooq made a last ditch effort but his outstretched legs missed a goalward pass by a whisker.
Indian team manager Pradeep Chowdhury admitted India played below par and said they could have won the match by a bigger margin.
"We are not satisfied with the performance today. We had the momentum going in the first half but slowed down in the second session. We could have won by a bigger margin," he said.