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.