Ricki Herbert’s Maldives U-23 side have headed home from India after failing by the narrowest of margins at the South Asian Games in India.
Having reached the semi-finals of the tournament, the Maldivians lost to Nepal 4-3 in extra time and then the side were beaten in the play-off for third place at tournament, losing 7-6 on penalties to Bangladesh.
Herbert’s youngsters go home with much-needed tournament experience and after pushing their opponents close in the knockout stages.
It was the third regional tournament in which Herbert has coached a Maldives national side to the semi-finals since the New Zealander took over as national coach last September.
In the play-off for third place, Bangladesh went ahead from the penalty spot in the 10th minute before Ali Fasir equalised with a free kick. In the 65th minute, Ali Fasir struck again, with a shot from outside the box but Bangladesh levelled a few minutes later through Soheil.
With the scores tied 2-2 at the end of normal time, the sides went straight into a penalty shoot-out.
The result went the way of Bangladesh when Ismail Easa missed the Maldivians’ fifth penalty and Raihan scored from the spot for Bangladesh.
In the semi-final, Nepal took the lead after 14 minutes through Anjan Bista before Nawayug Shresthaa doubled their lead when he chipped the ‘keeper.
Maldives fought back and Hamza Mohamed made it 2-1 with a 51st minute goal after good work from Ahmed Nashid.
Nashid got the equaliser with five minutes to go, forcing the semi-final into extra time.
Naiz put Maldives ahead 3-2 in the 113th minute but Shresthaa made it 3-3 just before the break.
In the last minute of extra time, and with penalties beckoning, Shresthaa struck again to give Nepal a berth in the tournament final.