Ashfaq’s early goal set up Maldives victory over SL
By Mustaq Sydeen in Maldives
An early goal form Ali Ashfaq helped Maldives to register a thrilling 1-0 win over Sri Lanka in their fourth and final outing of the SAFF Championship worked off at National Football Stadium Maldives yesterday.
The game kicked off amidst much fanfare from both supporters. Sri Lanka dominated possession from the get go and almost took the lead when Waseem Razeek found the back of the net, but unfortunately his effort was ruled offside.
However, the hosts drew first blood in the 6th minute through Ali Ashfaq when a brilliant through ball found the experienced striker who easily tapped in to give Maldives an early lead. The experienced striker’s goal put Maldives on a perfect track, where they played a clean game while making maximum use of the given opportunities.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka defence played a sloppy game in the early exchanges, where they easily allowed the Maldivian forwards to control the ball and play freely with back-toback counter attacks, but luckily none of them were converted into goals.
With 5 minutes play left for the first half Marvin Hamilton brought the crowd to their feet when he took a stunning free kick, which the Maldivian keeper punched out at the last minute to keep their one goal lead into the first half. Sri Lanka’s most productive spell came after the restart when Waseem Razeek and Harsha Fernando both headed good chances straight at the Maldives keeper and failed to convert them into goals.
Sri Lanka’s Harsha Fernando should have scored in the 50th minute when he was picked out by a wonderful cross by the winger, but made a mess of his attempted side-foot volley which drifted harmlessly wide.
The early goal scoring opportunities in the second half for Sri Lanka turned what had been a high-tempo and entertaining game into a more tactical affair following Alagic’s double substitution at the interval. Sri Lankan came under pressure before the hour-mark, the best of a handful of chances falling to Kavindu Ishan whose effort was well over the bar.
Sri Lanka kept on attacking and chances went abegging in the latter stage of the match. On the other hand, the Maldivian defenders tended to play hard with rough tackles to stop the marauding Sri Lanka forwards and prevent a late heart break.
The Golden Army ran out of steam and ideas as the second half wore on, and Maldives defended resolutely with defiance and resilience to maintain their one goal lead at the final whistle. However, Alagic’s youthful charges showed again that they are a tough nut to crack with a measured away performance, restricting Maldives to six goal attempts. Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa was present at the National Stadium yesterday to witness the clash.