Maldives in final of SAFF Suzuki Cup

DHAKA, Sept 12, 2018 (BSS)- The Maldives smartly reached the final of the seven-nation 12th SAFF Suzuki Cup’2018 stunning Nepal by 3-0 goals in the rain-marred first semifinal at the Bangabandhu National Stadium here on Wednesday.

The Maldives will now play the final against second semi-final winners India/Pakistan on September 15 at the same venue.

It was a much improved performance by the Maldives after their dismal performance in group stage matches.

Skipper Akram Abdul Ghanee gave Maldives a deserving lead early in the 8th minute from a free kick. His powerful left footed angular free kick from outside the D box after Suman Aryal failed to read the ball also dodged goalie Kiran Chemjong under the bar.

Maldives deprived another scoring chance in the 25th minute when Ali Fasir’s right-footed shot from the right side of the six yard box missed the target following a set piece situation.

In the next minute, Maldives again came close of scoring when Akram Abdul Ghanee’s left footed shot from long range angular shot on the right was saved by Nepalese goalie Kiran Kumar Limbu.

Nepal regrouped them and spoiled some real scoring chances under the slippery ground following rain. Later the play was halted half an hour due to heavy thunder storm.

Nepal got a real scoring chance to equalize the margin in the 42nd minute when Bimal Magar’s right footed shot from the right side of the box off Nirajan Khadka was brilliantly saved by Maldives custodian Mohamed Faisal.

After the lemon break, Nepal launched several attacks to restore the parity but they failed to convert those into goals due to lack of proper finishing.

In the 62nd minute, Bimal Magar’s header off a pass from Anjan Bista from the centre of the box was saved by Nepal goalie.

Bimal Magar again missed another scoring chance in the 65th minute when his header off Dinesh Rajbansi’s cross from the centre of the box missed to the target.

Ibrahim Waheed Hassan extended the Maldives lead in the 84th minute with a right footed shot from the centre of the box and he completed the winners’ tally scoring his second and third for the Maldives in the 86th minute.

Earlier, The Maldives played out to a goalless draw with Sri Lanka in their group opening match and lost 0-2 to India in their second group match. They secured the last four spot by virtue of toss after both Maldives and Sri Lanka had equal one point.

On the other hand, Nepal started the tournament with a 1-2 goal defeat to Pakistan in their group opening match but they bounced back in the competition with a 4-0 drubbing over Bhutan in their group second match.

The Himalaya Kingdom confirmed their last four spot shocking host Bangladesh by 2-0 goals in their third and last group match.