Pakistan sunk 3-0 in final Maldives clash

The Maldives National Football Team on Thursday (February 14) won the second of two friendly matches held against Pakistan in Male’ this week – bouncing back after conceding a last minute equaliser in their opening fixture played two days earlier.

The Maldives were convincing winners during Thursday’s game, which ended 3-0, despite some near misses from the visitors early on during the game, according to Pakistan-based publication, ‘The News International‘.

After squandering a one goal lead against Pakistan during the final touch of their first friendly first game the Maldives sealed victory Thursday night through three second-half goals from Mohamed Umair and captain Ali Ashfaq. Ashfaq scored twice in the 67th and 90th minute of the match.

Despite the seemingly one-sided final score, local media reported that both teams started the match brightly, with Pakistan’s Denmark-based attacker Hasan Bashir rattling the home-side’s cross bar with a strike in the opening ten minutes of the game.

The Maldives also came close to scoring during the first half with a close range header that went wide in the 27th minute of the match.

Ten minutes later, the Maldives Mohamed Arif once again hit the post with a powerful shot, according to media reports.

With the first half ending in a stalemate, Mohamed Umair opened the scoring for the hosts with a long range effort in the 59th minute.

Maldives Captain sealed the win eight minutes later, before netting a second in the final minute of standard time.

Pakistan’s two friendly matches in Male’ were held as part of the national squad’s preparation ahead of its first qualifying matches for the 2014 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup.


Red Snappers snatch victory 1-0 in Kathmandu

The Maldives’ national football team’s victory over host nation Nepal in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup prompted a congralutory call from President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan last night.

Coach Istvan Urbanyi’s side’s 1-0 win over an opponent ranked twenty-one places above them in the FIFA world rankings prompted the President to call the team praising their “courageous performance”.

In response to charges that the team had been fortunate to escape with the win, the Hungarian coach said, “I don’t even want to mention luck”.

“This was a very competitive match between two very good sides and we saw a very good game. Both teams worked hard and the crowd, although they were against us, was fantastic” said Urbanyi.

Mohamed Rashid’s second half goal came against the run of play after intense pressure from the home side. Maldives’ goalkeeper Imran Mohammed produced an impressive double save as well as being spared when Nepal struck the crossbar.

Some shaky defending was compensated for by good counter-attacking play, producing the single goal that proved to be the difference between the sides.

In his phone call, President Waheed urged the players to redouble their efforts in the upcoming match with Palestine, ranked fourteen places above the Maldives, on Wednesday March 12.

The victory over Nepal revives hopes of qualification from Group A after the team’s 3-1 defeat at the hands of Turkmenistan last week. A win against the Palestinians would see the Maldives qualify for the semi-finals, to be played on March 16.

At the semi-final stage, however, the Maldives would likely be faced with India or North Korea, arguably the two strongest teams in the tournament. The North Koreans qualified for the last FIFA World Cup, putting up a particularly impressive display in a narrow defeat against Brazil. They are also the current holders of the AFC Challenge Cup.

The winners of the tournament automatically qualify for the 2015 Asian Cup to be held in Australia.

Some fans of the Red Snappers celebrated the victory via Twitter. “There is no[thing] better [than] to beat your opponent in their home ground”, said one proud supporter. Another described the victory as “stupendous”.


Maldives victory ensures 2012 AFC Challenge Cup qualification

An own goal from Maldivian midfielder Assad Abdul Ghani was not enough to dent the country’s hopes of reaching the 2012  Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup finals as it overcame Kyrgyzstan 2-1 in Male’ yesterday to guarantee a spot in the upcoming tournament.

Male’ has this week been playing host to all the Group C qualifying matches that will decide which two teams out of the Maldives, Tajikistan, Cambodia and Kyrgyzstan will be among the finalists to contest next year’s Challenge Cup.

After already beating Cambodia 4-0 at Male’s national stadium on Monday (21 March), Ali Ashadh further added to the home side’s goal tally within five minutes of yesterday’s game.  That goal remained the difference between the two teams until the second half when Shamweel Qasim appeared to put the contest beyond doubt in the 79th minute.

The visitors had been reduced to ten men three minutes before the second goal after Azmat Baimatov was sent off, yet the game still ended with the potential for Kyrgyzstan to spring some points after Ghani’s error bought the deficit to within a single goal with three minutes remaining.  Despite the potential pressure, the Maldivian players were able to hold on to win the game, setting up a top of the table clash for its final group match on Friday in Male’ against Tajikistan.

During the other Group C qualifying match held in the capital yesterday, Tajikistan managed to put three goals past a Cambodian side that had already been soundly beaten by the host nation.

Cambodia were a goal down by the second minute of the match following a strike by Nurriddin Davronov, but managed to staunchly defended its goal-line well into the second half until two goals within the last ten minutes of the game from Ibragim Rabimov and Pulod Koridov ensured the victors would be joining the Maldives in the AFC Challenge Cup finals.

The Maldives will now compete with seven other nations including India, Turkmenistan and fellow Group C rival Tajikistan in the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup.  A host nation has not yet been selected for the tournament, but a venue is expected to be drawn from among one of the eight finalists under AFC rules.

The last AFC Challenge Cup tournament held in Sri Lanka during February 2010 was eventually won by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.