Maldives beat India to lift SAFF Cup

June 15th, 2008 - 12:12 am ICT by IANS  

Colombo, June 14 (IANS) A last-gasp goal by Mukhtar Nasser helped Maldives shock defending champions India to lift their maiden South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Cup title at the packed Sugathadassa Stadium here Saturday. Four-time champion India paid heavily for the numerous chances they missed throughout the 90 minutes. And when the game looked like going into extra-time, the stunner came with a long ranger from Nasser in the 87th minute.

It was 159th ranked Maldives’ third appearance in the final and this time they emerged unscathed and also took a sweet revenge for their 0-1 loss to India at home in the group stage.

India throughout the tournament never played like defending champions and had to toil hard for all their victories.

Maldives never looked like a team ranked six spots below India and right from the start made efforts to rattle the opposition defence.

Nasser had the first clear chance of opening the scoring in the ninth minute but it was thwarted by Indian goalkeeper Subrata Paul. Maldives’ strikers Nasser and Ali Ashfaq showed good coordination to pounce on the loose ball repeatedly.

India had to pay through its nose for the profligacy of its players, who showed eagerness in attempting long rangers rather than playing short passes. Climax Lawrence and Sameer Naik attempted some ambitious long rangers but they had neither power nor direction.

Indian strikers Bhaichung Bhutia and Sunil Chettri were hardly given any chance as they were heavily policed by the Maldivian defenders. They still had a few opportunities but failed to convert them. One such opportunity came in the 18th minute, when Bhaichung set it up for Chettri with a deep pass but the chance went abegging.

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