The South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Suzuki Cup 2018 came to a dramatic end on Saturday night when Maldives defeated former champions India by 2-1 goals in the final to claim the crown of the tournament.
The high voltage match took place in a flood-lit Bangabandhu National Stadium in the capital with a good number of supporters of Maldives and India in the gallery.
India made the first attack of the match when a cross was delivered to forward Manvir Singh and he took a shot to the Maldives’ post. But the shot lacked enough pace and angle as Maldivian keeper goalkeeper Mohamed Faisal easily saved the shot.
The first fifteen of the game was mostly dominated by Indian booters and Maldives found little room to deploy attacks in Indian side.
In the 19th minute of the match, India suffered a shock when Maldivian midfielder Ibrahim Mahudhee Hussain draw the first blood.
A well placed assistance by teammate Hassan Naiz helped Ibrahim to enter into Indian D-box area without facing any defence and his right footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner precisely lobs past an onrushing Indian goalkeeper Vishal Kaith which made the score 1-0.
After conceding a goal India looked a bit shaky with misfiring in few easy occasions.
Maldives seemed confident and committed to maintain their lead as they were forcing India to struggle with the ball.
The first half ended with 1-0 on the board.
India displayed better attacks from the early minutes of second half and their constant pressing in Maldives side showed their urgency to earn an equaliser.
However, the day belonged to Maldives and in the 66th minute, Maldivian Ali Fasir’r right footed shot doubled their lead.
India managed a consolation goal in the added minutes after the regulation time, courtesy of Indian forward Sumit Passi.
At the final whistle, Maldives burst out in joy after making history as they will return home with the SAFF Suzuki Cup 2018 trophy.
Before the final, India had the upper hand in retaining their trophy as the side have seven titles under their tally whereas Maldives won the regional football trophy for a single time before and they haven’t played in the finals of last three editions of the tournament.
The two sides also met in the group stage this year where India won easily by 2-0 goals.
Maldives had a tough start in the tournament but luck favoured them a lot in the group stage. In Group B campaign, both Sri Lanka and Maldives finished with only one point and who would be the semi-finalist between them was decided by a coin toss. Lucky Maldives upset Sri Lanka by the virtue of coin toss and faced Nepal in the semis where they earned their first 3-0 victory to enter the final. At the end of the competition, the Maldives had the last laugh.