SAFF Cup: Maldives beat Bangladesh to enter semis

In a match that witnessed frenzied action in the last 10 minutes, Maldives overcame a spirited challenge from Bangladesh 3-1 to enter the semi-finals from Group B in the SAFF Suzuki Cup football tournament at the Greenfield stadium here on Saturday.

Maldives captain Ashfaq Ali (7) and Bangladesh player Topu Barman in action in the SAFF Suzuki cup in Thiruvananthapuram.   -  S GOPAKUMAR

In a match that witnessed frenzied action in the last 10 minutes, Maldives overcame a spirited challenge from Bangladesh 3-1 to enter the semi-finals from Group B in the SAFF Suzuki Cup football tournament at the Greenfield stadium here on Saturday.

The much improved performance from Bangladesh wasn’t good enough to stop Maldives from recording their second straight win in the tournament which clinched their spot in the last four. Goals from substitutes Hassan Naiz (90th) and Nashid Ahmed (95th) snuffed out Bangaladesh’s challenge after Hemontha Biswas (87th) had cancelled out Ashfaq Ali’s 42nd minute penalty.

Substitute Hassan Naiz, who had just come on the field in the 89th scored off a superb back heel from a Nashid Ahmed cross in the 90th minute to restore Maldives lead. In stoppage time, Nashid Ahmed scored the insurance goal with a classy finish off a swift counter-attack. A long clearance from middle came to captain Ashfaq Ali who squared it to Ismail and the substitute rolled the ball to Nashid who blasted home from close.

Bangladesh surrendered the initiative early to their rivals but they wrested back control in the midfield by slowing down the tempo. Bangladesh’s ploy of holding on to the ball upset the Maldives’ rhythm and the side created a few chances but couldn’t convert any of them.

Shakawath Rony missed an easy chance in the 29th minute when he beat the off-side trap to meet a cross from the left flank only to be denied by an alert Maldives goalkeeper Mohammed Imran. But Maldives went ahead when Vietnamese referee Vo Minh Tri penalised Bangladesh defender Waly Faisal for handball. Ashfaq Ali coolly converted the penalty for his second goal of the tournament. Just when it appeared the match would end in a solitary goal win for Maldvies, came the twist that saw three goals being scored in space of eight minutes.