India vs Maldives, SAFF Championship Final: India Lose 2 1 in Hard fought Encounter
“We have struggled in the group stages but we’re in the final now. This is our biggest chance. We haven’t played the final in nine years. We’re well prepared and we’re going to fight to win the tournament,” captain of Maldives Ghanee said ahead of the final. Underdogs in the contest, Maldives are coached by Croatian Peter Segrt are aware of the task in hand and must find a way to stop India from playing to stand a chance. Set plays and attacking on the counter will be their most crucial weapons as they aim for a second title. In four attempts, they’ve won the summit clash once. Twice have they lost to India before this and have only beaten them once. “Maldives have shown their worth with the semi-final win against Nepal which was not an easy task. Some of their players didn’t play against us and they did some major damage work against Nepal,” India coach Stephen Constantine told AIFF ahead of the final. “We are expecting a tough game against Maldives. But as I said before, we have come with a strong intent to win the tournament.”
Full-time: Maldives 2-1 India. India’s late goal was indeed nothing but a consolation as the game ends in defeat for the 2015 SAFF Cup champions. Take nothing away from Maldives though as they were the better side. They had a plan and executed it to a hilt.
GOAL! Might be a case of too little too late, but Passi finally breaches the Maldives defence. It seems too late to find another goal at this point, sadly.
5 minutes have been added on.
The lack of tempo in the game at this point tells the story of a match that is all but finished, and not just in terms of time. Maldives aren’t being threatened despite not having much of the ball.
The game looks done and dusted at this point. Another India corner comes to nothing despite the cross being in a dangerous area. Constantine is fuming.
Another change for India as Hitesh Sharma comes on for Anirudh Thapa. Don’t know what difference like for like changes will make at this point but Constantine obviously thinks it will help.
20 minutes left in the game and Sumeet Passi has replaced Farukh Choudhary. Will the change make a difference? Let’s wait and watch.
GOAL! Ali Fasir doubles Maldives’ lead as India are once again caught out by a swift counterattack. Fasir is sent through and dinks the ball over Kaith who charged off his line. Game over, maybe?
The game has settled into a familiar pattern: India keep the ball for a bit, fail to find any space and the ball is booted clear by Maldives. At this rate, Constantine might just need to throw caution to the wind and bring on a forward in place of a midfielder.
Maldives are sitting deep and looking to deny India space, even resorting to nothing but clearances when they can. They’re happy with the scoreline and are defending for their lives.
India get a free-kick in a decent position but Anirudh Thapa’s delivery evades everyone. The defending champions have had plenty of the ball but are struggling to create chances.
Chance! A cross from the right side finds Manvir Singh in a dangerous position but his header flies agonisingly over the bar. Another good opportunity goes begging.
Second half is underway now. The next 45 minutes will be a big test of character for this team.
Half-time: Maldives 1-0 India. A goal from Ibrahim Hussain separates the two sides going into the break. India need to be more clinical in the second half if they are to have any chance of making a comeback in the final.
2 minutes have been added on.
Nikhil Poojary gets in a cross from the right side but despite it being in a decent position, no one is there to meet it. Seconds later he puts in another ball but it is cleared away.
India have had three shots so far in the first half. Maldives, on the other hand, have had just the one shot… the one from which they scored. Just goes to show you that it doesn’t matter how many chances are created if you don’t take them.
So nearly! A long throw-in causes a bit of chaos in the box and the ball falls kindly for Manvir Singh. However, his shot grazes the side netting.
Maldives are defending deep at this point, which is a bit of a shock given how early it still is in the game. Then again, they are looking threatening on the break and they will look to keep creating such chances.
This is the first time India have trailed in this tournament. They’ll need to be at their best to come back from this situation.
Maldives are now growing in confidence. They launch another attack down the right side but only a poor cross denies them from potentially doubling their lead. India look disorganised in defence.
GOAL! Somewhat against the run of play, Maldives have taken the lead! They had begun to sit deep and launch a speedy move that catches India off guard. All to do for the defending champions now.
Nearly 15 minutes of the game have elapsed and neither of the sides have had a clear shot on goal so far. Both teams have made cautious starts.
India skipper Subhasish Bose makes a decent run down the left flank but is left with too many defenders to beat and is crowded out. Seconds later, India launch another attack from the left side which results in a cross being put into the box by Ashique. India are beginning to grow into the game.
The first few minutes have been all Maldives. India have not started the game well and look a bit out of sorts.
The referee blows his whistle and we are underway!
Kickoff is less than 10 minutes away now. You have to think that any Indian player who performs well today would be in the conversation for a spot in the AFC Asian Cup squad.
India are the defending SAFF Cup champions and will undoubtedly be the favourites to retain their crown. However, Maldives cannot be taken lightly. In fact, the last time these two teams faced each other it was Maldives who emerged victorious.