The Indian football team suffered a shock 2-1 defeat to Maldives in the SAFF Cup 2018 final at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka on Saturday.
Goals from Ibrahim Hussain and Ali Fasir were enough to seal the deal for Maldives. Sumeet Passi, who came off the bench in the second half, scored a consolation goal for India in injury time.
The game was a battle between a Maldives side who came up with a simple but effective plan to stifle India, a plan that worked a treat throughout the game.
Knowing that their opponents prefer playing crosses into the box, Maldives defended deep and denied them space to operate in inside the penalty area.
As a result, India kept the lion’s share of possession but failed to create too many chances from dangerous positions. It didn’t help that when they did create chances they failed to convert them.
Manvir Singh, who ended the tournament as the top-scorer, was particularly guilty of scuffing his lines when in dangerous areas. However, he wasn’t the only one who put in a poor shift as none of the Indian attackers looked threatening.
Maldives, on the other hand, created few chances but were far more clinical than India. The first goal came in the 21st minute when Hussain was put through on goal and he calmly slotted the ball over Vishal Kaith.
The goal led Maldives to defend even deeper. This made for some dull viewing but the tactic was effective in keeping their lead intact going into the break.
The second half saw more of the same, with Maldives content to defend while India searched for an equaliser. However, when Fasir rounded off a swift counter-attacking move with a cool finish, the game looked all but over.
India coach Stephen Constantine rung in the changes, bringing on forward Sumeet Passi for Farukh Choudhary and then sending midfielder Hitesh Sharma in for Anirudh Thapa.
India toiled hard but errant crossing and a lack of bite in the final third ensured a goal remained hard to come by.
India were given a glimmer of hope in injury time when Passi pulled one back but it merely turned out to be a consolation.