DHAKA: Maldives were crowned as the champions of South Asia after they beat India 2-1 in the SAFF Cup final at the Bangabandhu National Stadium on Saturday.
Ibrahim Mahudhee Hussain and Ali Fasir scored for the Red Snappers who clinched their second SAFF title after previously winning it in 2008
Substitute Sumeet Passi’s injury time strike to make it 2-1 for India proved nothing more than a consolation for Stephen Constantine’s U-23 side.
Both sides started with the same line-ups which featured in the respective semi-finals with Lallianzuala Chhangte remaining the only exception after he was suspended following a red card in the 3-1 win against Pakistan.
Maldives coach Petar Segrt chose to retain young Hasan Naiz, fresh off a 3-0 thrashing of Nepal.
After no real inroads made by either teams in the first quarter of an hour Maldives launched a counter-attack lead by Naiz down the right side.
The youngster set up Mahudhee Hussain for the first goal in the 19th minute.
India created a few chances for an equaliser around the half-hour mark after Ashique Kuruniyan and Farukh Choudhury combined with the latter making an effort which was seen out for a corner by Maldives skipper Akram Ghanee.
Maldives were dealt a little blow with Ghanee being stretchered off in the 38th minute due to injury and being replaced by Ahmed Numaan.
However, they doubled their lead in the 66th minute with the Indian defence caught napping and shamelessly allowing Fasir to zoom past a high line of five men to hit the final nail in the coffin.Passi was brought on immediately after but Maldives kept on holding their fort strong.
It was only in injury time that Maldives faced a serious challenge inside the box.
Nikhil Poojary delivered the ball across the face of goal and Passi guided the ball past Maldives goalkeeper Mohamed Faisal but it was a bit too late for India.
India’s U-23 side who breezed past this same team a week ago failed to have a hold on the game from the very start of it and ended up handing it to Maldives.
Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2018