The Maldives national football team yesterday began its South Asian Football Federation Championship (SAFF) by putting 10 goals past two Sri Lankan goalkeepers in record breaking style.
The high scoring game represents the biggest win in the tournament’s twenty-year history, with six goals by the Maldives’ ‘man of steel’ Ali Ashfaq making him the competition’s highest goalscorer.
“I feel happy about the result. I was excited that lots of goals were scored,” coach Istvan Urbanyi told the press after the game.
Commenting on Ashfaq’s six goals, Urbanyi hailed an “extra ordinary performance” but maintained that the win was a team effort.
It was Assadhulla Abdulla who opened the scoring for the Maldives after just five minutes from an Ahmed Rasheed cross. Sri Lanka kept their opponents at bay before Ashfaq began to take over, proving too quick for keeper Mohamed Imran who upended the Maldives’ captain when through on goal in the 19th minute.
Imran’s subsequent red card prompted the flood gates to creak, with Ashfaq converting the spot kick before adding another prior to the break. They had finally broken 15 minutes into the second half by which time Ashfaq had added another three to his tally, with his apparent hypnotism of Imran’s replacement in the 51st minute the pick of the bunch.
Sri Lanka appeared in disarray by the time Hassan Adhuham made it six on 76 minutes. The Maldives went on to put another three past the Lankan Lions, with Ashfaq claiming his sixth in the 87th minute and making the his team the first to score 10 goals in a SAFF championship game.
After the match, Sri Lankan coach Claudio Roberto declined to discuss individual players, but accepted blame for his side’s humiliation.
“Everything went wrong I will take the full responsibility of the match,” he told the media.
Post-match congratulations soon appeared across social media, with perhaps the most notable praise coming from former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who praised Ashfaq as “the best player in our region”.
Politicians from all parties took to Twitter to congratulate their side’s historic result. Both presidential and vice-presidential contenders for Saturday’s election took time away from campaigning to send their regards to Urbanyi’s team.
Maldives chief opponent in Group B, Afghanistan, had started their own campaign with a 3-0 win against Bhutan earlier in the afternoon.
The Maldives will take on Bhutan – the lowest ranked team in the tournament – tomorrow, before taking on Afghanistan on Friday.