SAFF Cup: Maldives off to winning start

Former champions Maldives got their campaign off to a winning start with a 3-1 win over Bhutan. Egged on by a few hundred supporters from the stands, the Maldivians took control from the start and did not look like losing at any point in the match.

The Maldives have previously won the SAFF Cup in 2008.   -  PTI

Former champions Maldives got their campaign off to a winning start with a 3-1 win over Bhutan. Egged on by a few hundred supporters from the stands, the Maldivians took control from the start and had the first look at Bhutan goal in the very second minute.

But Mohammed Hamza shot out from close after being in position by Asadhulla. However, it didn’t take long for Maldives to take the lead as Himas Ahmed after receiving a through ball from the middle, outsprinted his two markers to score the opening goal in the ninth minute

In the 15th minute Bhutan’s Chenco Gyeltshen couldn’t believe his luck when Maldives defender Ahmed Shaifu’s intended clearance came to him but the striker’s feeble attempt from just outside the box was way off the mark.

But Bhutan equalised in the 20th minute from a fine move initiated by captain Karun Narang. Narang relayed the ball to Chenco on the right flank and the striker found an unmarked Tshering Dorji who scored from inside the box with a left footer.

The goal sparked off a spate of moves from Maldives but Bhutan’s goalkeeper Hari Gurung proved to be impregnable. The goalkeeper made at least four saves to deny the Maldivians in the first half. However, Abdullah Asadullah restored the lead in the 30th minute when he deflected in a free kick from Immaz Ahmed.

Maldives, despite dominating the second half, were wasteful. It needed a stunning goal from Captain Ashaq Ali to assert his side’s supremacy in the match. Ali scored with a stinging left footer from the edge of the box after warding off threats from three defenders.