Published by Goal.com
The first game on the second day of the SAFF Suzuki Cup between Group B’s Maldives and Bhutan saw the Red Snappers come out on top. Goals from Ahmed Imaaz (9′), Asadullah Abdulla (31′) and Ashfaq Ali (70′) gave Maldives the edge over Bhutan. Tshering Dorji (20′) managed to pull one in for the Himalayan side but it was not enough to initiate a comeback.
Ricki Herbert started with a 4-3-3 formation which included the likes of Asadullah and skipper Ashfaq Ali, record goalscorer in the SAFF Cup. Bhutan on the other hand went in with a 4-2-3-1 where the talented trio of Chencho, Tshering and Biren were all present to boost up the attacking arsenal.
Nine minutes into the match, makeshift leftback Ahmed Imaaz overlapped his stikers and found space in the middle to receive a long ball. The no. 5 calmly collected the ball and dispatched it over ‘keeper Hari Gurung to open the scoring for Maldives.
The setback for Bhutan made the going tough for the Dragon Boys and were pushed onto the backfoot. Chencho Gyeltshen found an opening in the 18th minute but his shot was too weak after he intercepted Shafiu’s pass to shoot it wide – first real chance for Bhutan.
Tshering Dorji restored parity in the 20th minute after collecting a deflection of the winger. The young attacker twisted and turned till he found the right angle to finish off in a fashionable manner just inside the penalty box.
Minutes later, Bhutan keeper Hari Gurung came into his own ans he was constantly tested by the Maldives forwards. The 22 year old pulled off a double save to keep Ashfaq Ali and Ahmed Imaaz at bay in the 27th minute.
Right after the half an hour mark, Maldives restored their one goal cushion as Abdulla Asadullah found the back of the net. An Ahmed Imaaz freekick found the poaching Asad who chipped it into the opposition net.
The teams went in 2-1 in favour of Maldives at the half time whistle. In the second period, the physical strength of Maldives overpowered the Bhutanese.
Maldives skipper Ashfaq Ali joined the party in the 70th minute as he scored his 19th goal in all SAFF Cups. The 30 year old ran in from the left to cut past three defenders to drill in a powerful left footer which beat the impressive Hari Gurung.
Post the third goal, the action simmered down a bit as both teams played out the final quarter in the humid Trivandrum weather. A combined effort from the former NorthEast United manager’s side saw Maldives go top of Group B in the SAFF Suzuki Cup 2015.
Highlights of the game be viewed here: