Dhaka – The Maldives smartly reached the final of the seven-nation 12th SAFF Suzuki Cup’2018 stunning Nepal by 3-0 goals in the rain-marred first semifinal at the Bangabandhu National Stadium here on Wednesday.The former champions, the Maldives, will play final on September 15 at 7 pm against the winner of the second semifinal between India and Pakistan scheduled to be held from 7pm on Wednesday at the same venue.
The day’s first semifinal was stopped for about half an hour due to rain and thundershower in the capital.Captain Akram Abdul Ghanee scored one goal while Ibrahim Waheed scored two goals in a span of only two minutes for the Maldives, which dominated the first half by a solitary goal.
The Maldives who came to the semifinals riding on the coin in the toss saved their best for the last to outplay Nepal who after falling behind early did all apart from scoring a goal.
Nepal which smartly reached the semifinals as Group champions by virtue of better goal difference denying host Bangladesh again completed the SAFF campaign before reaching the final.
With the drizzling making the pitch a little slippery, the Maldives appeared more attacking in the opening minutes.Their pressing approach forced Nepal into their own zone. Their penetration paid dividends in the ninth minute as forward Ali Fasir was brought down at the left edge of the Nepalese box and Akram Abhul Ghanee, the Maldives skipper, saw the consequential free kick loop into the far post net (1-0).
Nepal intensified their attack in pursuit of the equaliser and Bharat Khawas tried his luck with a long range drive in the 18th minute and chipped the ball over from a handshaking distance following a goalmouth melee in the 24th minute.
With the game growing hot with attacks and counterattacks, Ali Fasis was ruing his chance in the 25th minute miscuing a right footer from the top of the eight yard box.
The game saw an unusual impede just in the stroke of the half hour when the Match Commissioner stopped the proceedings due to extreme thunders. Both the teams left the pitch before the game resumed after thirty minutes break.
Nepal dominated the post resumption period of fifteen minutes launching a series of attacks but the efforts of Bimal Gharti Magar, Bharat Khawas and Nirajan Khadka all fell short. In the 40th minute, Bharat Khawas’s sliding placement turned into a corner off the gloves of Md Faisal.
Nepalese goalie Kiran Kumar Limbu kept his team in the match saving a rasping drive of Maldives forward Hasan Naiz for a corner in the 49th minute. With the Nepalese defence standing a little up, Ibrahim Hussain paved the way for Naiz with a crisp through pass from the midfield.
Nepal was frustrated again in the 61st minute with Bimal Gharti Magar’s deflected head on a volley of substitute midfielder Anjanj Bjista landed right into the hand Md Faisal and returned to the game.
Nepal kept trying and trying but still remained at the day. Sunil Bal, the hardworking midfielder, ran down the left flank in the 70th minute and unleashed a cracker from the edge of the box but saw the ball whisker past side post.
Nepal coach added Nawajug Shreshta and Bishal Rai further bolstered his attack in the last fifteen minute of the match. However, Nawajug missed to the line of a Sunil Bal cross in the 76th minute with Faisal stranded far post.
But the dying minutes appeared to be a fairytale for the Maldives as forward Ibrahim Waheed extended the lead in the 84th minute when he hit the back of the net after Nepalese defender Dinesh Rajbanshi cleared a Asadulla Abdulla cross in the middle of box and the ball landed into the feet of unmarked Ibrhaim who beat Kiron in the near post (2-0).Two minutes later, Ibrahim added his second goal off a counterattack placing the ball into the far post (3-0).UNB