Nepal to date India in semisThe hosts beat the Maldives 4-1 to progress into the SAFF U-19 Championship last four as Group A runners-up. India top Group B with a 2-1 win over Bhutan, who also advance.
Nepal progressed into the semi-finals of the SAFF U-19 Championship 2023 after they thrashed the Maldives 4-1 in their last group match at the Dasharath Stadium in Kathmandu on Monday.
Samir Tamang scored a double while Prashant Laksam and Nirajan Dhami scored one each for the hosts in a tense game that saw three red cards and a lot of bad blood.
Two-time champions Nepal were under pressure to deliver after facing a 1-0 defeat against Pakistan in their opening match on Thursday that had left their hopes hanging by a thread.
The hosts left behind their hangover and were already leading 2-0 before the half-an-hour mark, with Laksam and Tamang pulling the strings.
Laksam, who had forced the Maldives goalkeeper Mohamed Yaamen into a sharp save in the sixth minute, volleyed home a wonderful long ranger thanks to a poor clearance by defender Yoosuf Shaaif.
Tamang added Nepal’s second in the 30th minute, outpacing the Maldives defenders to find a clever through pass from Dhami before finessing a low shot into the far post.
The Maldives’ frustration had already reached a boiling point after conceding twice and it spilled over when Sujan Dangol unnecessarily challenged Mohamed Iyaan Hassan. Scuffle broke out between the two and both were sent off by Bhutanese referee Pema Tshewang.
Tension continued soon after the restart as well when Mohamed Aiham Anwar deliberately pushed Anil Bomjan, whose cool gesture was not enough for Afzal Mohamed to hold back his annoyance.
Adam Layaan Rasheed lifted some pressure off the Maldives in the 58th minute, taking advantage of a glitch in the Nepali defence line up to convert a cross from Ahmd Zahaan Nazeer from close range.
But Dhami rubbed salt to the Maldivian wounds, sneaking past the cat-napping defenders to tap in a beautiful low cross from Laksam in the 88th minute.
Another tussle erupted quickly after Shanaan Rasheed Rashaad and Ashwin Ghorasainee both went down during a tackle and the Maldives’ Afzal was shown a yellow for failing to control emotions.
Tamang then killed off the game in the sixth minute of the second half injury time with a header off Dipak Thapa Magar.
But Afzal was not done yet and was shown a second yellow, and a red card after the final whistle for angrily protesting referee Tshewang’s decisions.
The Maldives exited the tournament with one point, which they earned after playing a 1-1 draw against Pakistan on Saturday.
Nepal will now play against Group B winners India, who defeated Bhutan 2-1 at the Dasharath Stadium later in the evening.
Pakistan advanced to the last four as group winners and will meet Bhutan, who had overcome a two goal deficit to beat Bangladesh 4-3 in their opening match.
Bangladesh bowed out without a win. They had lost their opener 3-0 against India, the winners of the other two editions of the SAFF U-19 Championship.