India went down fighting 1-2 against Maldives in the final of the SAFF Cup 2018 at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka on Saturday. While Maldives scored one goal in either half, the only Indian goal came in the added extra time of the second half, courtesy Sumeet Passi strike. India, however, started on a positive note but a couple of brilliantly executed counter-attacks and a resilient defensive display from Maldives Islanders shattered the defending champions’ dream of clinching their record eighth SAFF title.
India were the brighter side at the starting of the match as they continued to push Maldives to their limit until they scored against the run of the play in the 19th minute. On a quick counter-attacking move, Naiz Hussain played a deft delivery to Ibrahim Hussain only to see him gleefully score the opener before the 20-minute mark. Meanwhile, this was the first instance in the SAFF Cup 2018 where India were trailing against their opponents.
India, in their pursuit of an equaliser, came close a few times but the attackers were missing the finesse in front of the opposition goal. On the half-hour mark, Ashique delivered a low cross from the left flank directed to Farukh who lost his balance to lose the opportunity. On the resultant corner, Subhasish jumped to head it home but the Maldivian goalie Mohamed Faisal cleared the ball away.
One minute later, Manvir Singh, who happened to be the reigning highest scorer of SAFF Cup 2018, latched on another attack but it could not find the back of the net. India headed to the changing room trailing by the solitary goal.
Maldives doubled their lead in the 68th minute. On another quick counter-attacking move, Hamzath Mohamed outran the Indian defence line to glide it on to an onrushing Ali Fasir who found the back of the Indian goal.
Subhasish got another tantalisingly appealing chance to breach the Maldivian defense from a well-taken corner by Hitesh in the 79th minute. He was left completely unmarked and a tap-in could have done the trick for India but the skipper mistimed it to see the ball go out of play.
Sumeet Passi sprung some life into the game having scored a goal for India in the added time but it was too late for them. On a cross from the right wing by Nikhil, Sumeet tucked it in to breach the sturdy Maldivian defense finally.
The Maldivian goalie came out with another couple of terrific saves to deny the Indians an equaliser.