SAFF Cup: Sumeet Passi’s late strike not enough as Maldives edge India in final

SAFF Cup: Sumeet Passi’s late strike not enough as Maldives edge India in final
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Poor finishing and scrappy defending put paid to India’s quest for an eighth South Asian Football Federation Cup title as it suffered a 1-2 defeat against Maldives in the summit clash.
India, the defending champions, largely dominated the match with better ball possession and more shots at the opposition goal but the Maldives team scored from the few chances it got to lift the winners’ trophy for the second time. Maldives had also won the title in 2008 edition which it co-hosted.
Ibrahim Mahudhee Hussain and Ali Fasir scored in the 19th and 66th minutes respectively for Maldives against the run of play. Sumeet Passi (90+2 minute) pulled one back for India in the second minute of the injury time at the Bangabandhu Stadium.
India, fielding an Under-23 side except for one player, was chasing its eight triumph in 12 editions and its third back-to-back title. But its forwards failed to put the ball on target on several occasions while the defenders lacked coordination. India had beaten Maldives 2-0 in the group stage.
The Stephan Constantine-coached India probably played the worst match of the tournament after making emphatic wins in the group stage and the semifinal.
India were going into the summit clash with a lot of confidence after an all-win record and having conceded just one goal in their earlier three matches and was soon dominating the proceedings.
In the fifth minute, Nikhil Poojary delivered a looping ball to Salam Ranjan Singh who, however, mistimed his header to waste the chance.
It was, however, Maldives who took the lead in the 19th minute with Ibrahim Mahudhee Hussain’s right footed shot from the centre of the box past Indian goalkeeper Vishal Kaith from an assist by Hassan Naiz. It was the first time, India was trailing in the tournament.