Maldives national football team coach Drago Mamic has insisted his team can still reach the knockout phase of the AFC Challenge cup after “cheap” goals cost them three points in yesterday’s tournament opener.
“I am very sorry that we concede very cheap goals and that’s why I told you before that one skillful player can change the score and I still believe that we can qualify for the semi-final,” Mamic told maldivesoccer.com.
Myanmar striker Kyaw Ko Ko scored twice as the Maldives lost 3-2 despite dominating much of the game before a capacity crowd at Malé’s Galolhu Stadium.
Despite going down to ten men after just 22 minutes, the tournament’s lowest ranked side were two goals up by half-time. Number 10, Kyaw, was not tracked in the 39th minute, neatly latching onto a through-ball to give his team the lead.
Kyaw was again involved in the second goal, exchanging a one-two before setting up Nyein Chan Aung for a simple finish.
After pulling a goal back ten minutes after the re-start, the Maldives hopes of salvaging a point were ended as an unmarked Kyaw struck again in added time. The Maldives’ captain and talisman Ali Ashfaq immediately replied with what was no more than a consolation goal.
Mamic said that his players may have relaxed following the sending off, suggesting that his instructions to closely mark the dangerous Kyaw were not followed.
When asked about the absence of playmaker Mohamed Arif from the staring eleven, Mamic said that the midfielder had been unable to train in the run-up to the tournament and so was not considered fully fit.