Maldives and Afghanistan played out a goal less stalemate as both teams were guilty of missing several chances in front of goal with little at stake as both had qualified...
By Kaustav Bera with Ayush Srivastava at the stadium
The last Group B encounter in the SAFF Championship ended goal less as Maldives and Afghanistan were both secured of advancing to the semi-finals with the Red Snappers finishing top of the Group.
Mohamad Rafi earned a spot in the starting eleven after scoring in the last game along with Mujtabba Faiz in the Afghanistan line-up. For Maldives, Ali Ashfaq was left out as another yellow card could have seen him suspended with Ahmed Niyaz, Ahmed Rasheed, Abdulla Asadhulla and Ali Umar named in the first eleven by Maldives coach Istvan Urbanyi.
The two teams looked to attack from the onset, which was a welcome change at the SAFF Championship. The first chance befell Maldives when by a long ball towards Asadhulla saw him cut in on Mustafa Hadid to unleash a shot which Farzad Ataee did well to clear.
Afghanistan had a chance of their own when Yousef Mashriqi had to slot the ball home but he missed his kick and the opportunity goes wasted after Mohammad Marouf crossed from the left.
Midway through the first half saw a great bit of skill by Sanjdar Ahmadi. Mustafa Azadzoy’s cross is behind Ahmadi but the striker flicked the ball acrobatically to see it go over the bar.
Mohamed Umair should have done better in the 36th minute when put clean through by Ahmed Rasheed but the former’s shot was straight into the keeper’s hands.
The two teams were thereafter involved in a battle of the midfield to gain a foothold into the game. At half-time, the scoreline remained 0-0.
Second half began with Istvan Urbanyi making two changes with Ali Umar and Ahmed Rasheed being sacrificed for Ali Fasir and Ahmed Abdulla and the coach switching to a 3-5-2 formation as he wanted to push more bodies forward in search of a goal.
Afghanistan had a chance to go forward before the hour mark as Sandjar Ahmadi was almost clean through only for Maldives keeper Imran Mohamed to be alert to the situation.
It was Ahmadi again who made a hash of his chance in front of goal with the empty net staring at him from a resultant free kick. It was Maldives who had a chance to score in the 72th minute as Ali Umair and Ali Fasir combined brilliantly only for Fasir to blaze the shot over the bar instead of squaring the ball into the box.
Jamour played a delightful chip whch found Hashmatullah Barakzai in all kinds of space but his first time effort was not a problem for the Maldivian keeper.
It was Jamour again who played provider with six minutes left, this time for Hamidullah Nesar who came on for Sandjar Ahmadi but was guilty of missing the chance too as his shot was saved on the second try by Imran Mohamed who had it to claw it out of goal, after it took a wicked deflection.
As both teams had already confirmed progression to the semi-finals there was very little to play for and the match ended on a goal less stalemate. With Maldives finishing on top of Group B courtesy a better goal difference, they will face India in the semi-finals while Afghanistan would be facing hosts Nepal in their bid to make the first final.
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