The Maldives knocked out top-ranked Bangladesh 3-1 in the SAFF Cup tournament last night, qualifying for the semi-finals alongside Nepal.
The Maldives’ Ahmed Thariq quickly scored in the sixth minute of the match, scoring again in the 17th. Ali Ashfaq scored the country’s third goal in the 70th minute. Bangladesh’s Sahedul Shahed scored in the 29th minute.
Bangladesh retained greater possession but the speedy and precise Maldivians gave them few opportunities to score in Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
Bangladesh has beaten the Maldives in three previous SAAF match ups, and has lost only once to the small island nation since 1984. The last time Bangladesh defeated the Maldives was during the 2009 final.
After last night’s win, young people on motorbikes circled Male’ hooting and cheering. The result means the Maldives and Nepal now top Group B with five points apiece. Heading into the semifinals, India and Afghanistan lead Group A with four points each.
The Maldives drew the tournament’s two opening matches before finding their feet in last night’s match.
“It was a very difficult win. Bangladesh was a very good side. We had a plan and it worked. They brought a lot of changes and we improved,” said Maldives coach Istvan Urbanyi.
“If we come to a tournament with high expectation, we need to deal with it. We need to score goals and then the confidence comes. It wasn’t a case of poor form, but of confidence. During this game, we had some difficult periods. It’s not easy to win.”
“In Maldives, you have a lot of skillful players. All we need is better facilities. Maybe our players need some experience, go abroad to get the feel to be a professional football player. The other thing is that everybody likes football.”
A home team match-up against India would be difficult, he conceded.
“Every team has a chance to reach the semi-finals. In the last game even, if Pakistan beat Nepal, they had the chance to qualify and Nepal will be out. Sri Lanka has a good team and a good spirit. I was with the Under-23 team in Dhaka and Afghanistan reached the finals. So I’m not surprised with their performance here.”