After a well contested first half, Nepal failed to recover from going one goal down shortly after the break and crash out of the AFC Challenge Cup with one match still left...
It was Mohammad Rasheed's first international goal for the island nation which dashed the hopes of the millions of Nepali people who thought home advantage would allow their team to spring a surprise in the tournament.
The blame for the goal has to be shouldered by Nepali captain Sagar Thapa whose error in judgement allowed Rasheed to score against the run of play against a dominant Nepal side who failed to bury their numerous chances.
For the hosts, Jumanu Rai and Anil Gurung started upfront in what looked to be an attacking side sent out by coach Graham Roberts who needed a win to stay hopeful of qualification to the next round after a defeat to Palestine in the opening round. Ritesh Thapa replaced error prone Kran Chemzong in goal and Bhola Silwal replaced the ineffectual Nirajan Khadka in midfield.
In this do or die encounter, as Maldives too had lost their first match against Turkmenistan and needed to win to stay within the hunt, Istvan Urbanyi sent out a strong line up with captain Ali Ashfaq leading the line, who was back in the first XI after Ahmed Thariq was sent off against Turkmenistan and having himself completed his suspension.
The Gorkhalis started the match on a high, playing at a high tempo and looked dangerous when going forward. It was the islanders however, who had the first chance when Rabin Shrestha brought down captain Ashfaq, but the resulting free kick from Mohamed Umair was too high.
The returning skipper looked lively as he was in the thick of things again, just ten minutes later when he slipped in a perfect through ball to striker Hassan Adhuham but Ritesh Thapa did just enough to save the resulting effort.
In spite of the early charge, it was Graham Roberts' side who saw more of the ball, and they almost opened the scoring in the 29th minute. Anil Gurung capitalized on Mohamed Sifan's mistake as he played a slack pass back to the goalie. He intercepted the pass and played a ball to Jumanu Rai but the resulting shot was kept out by an alert Imran Mohammed in goal.
The host nation looked to pile on more pressure on the opposition back four that looked increasingly rattled as time wore on. In the 36th minute, industrious midfielder Raju Tamang struck the underside of the cross bar. Just three minutes later Imran was the hero as the goalkeeper thwarted two attacks one after another, first from Rai's fierce shot and then from the resulting rebound by Bharat Khawas.
After the lemon break, normal service resumed as the Gorkhalis continued pressing for that all elusive goal while the Red Snappers got as many men as they could behind the ball.
Surprisingly it was the 2008 SAFF Cup Champions who took the lead in the 51st minute as Mohammed Rasheed took full advantage of slack defending especially from skipper Sagar Thapa, before expertly shooting the ball to the left side of Ritesh who had no chance.
Graham Roberts' men, clearly rattled by what they thought was an undeserved lead for the opposition, tried to level the play by committing more men forward. However the Maldives' defense looked far more composed now that they had the all important goal to hold on to.
In fact in the 71st minute, The Man of Steel, Ali Ashfaq almost made the hosts pay on the break, as he stole the ball from Bhola Silwal but his shot was somehow blocked by a last ditch slide from a Nepali defender.
It was heart break for the Gorkhalis when in the 78th minute everyone thought Rai had scored the equaliser, only for his shot to be blocked on the line.
Although Nepal spent the remainder of the match firmly entrenched in the opposition half, barring a few half chances this was the closest they had come to get one back in the second half.
The otherwise suspect backline of Istvan Urbanyi's side in the first half, was rejuvenated after the goal and thwarted all that the Gorkhalis could throw at them and eventually held on to keep their hopes to qualify for the semi-finals alive while the hosts make an unlikely early exit from the tournament, leading to the disappointment of millions of home fans.