Maldives beats Pakistan to clinch inaugural Mahinda Rajapaksa soccer tourney



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by Zacki Jabbar


The victorious Maldivian team, which clinched the inaugural Mahinda Rajapaksa Under-23 International Football Tournament, by defeating Pakistan 2-1 in the finals played at the Jayathilaka Stadium in Nawalapitiya last week.

Maldives won the inaugural Mahinda Rajapaksa Under-23 International Football Tournament, defeating Pakistan by two goals to one, at the Jayathilaka Stadium in Nawalapitiya last week.


The game was a closely contested affair with neither side scoring in the first half.


The momentum picked up after the break, with both teams looking for scoring opportunities. But, it was the Maldives who took the lead in the 56th minute when Rilwan Waheed converted a free kick.


Pakistan pushed hard into their opponent’s territory, only to be driven back with some excellent footwork which culminated with a peach of a kick by forward Asadhullah that sent the ball curling into the goal in the 59th minute of play.


In the 84th minute, Pakistan reduced the lead with an own goal. But it proved too little too late in the end as the boys from the Maldivian archipelago hung on to the solitary point difference.


The Maldivian Sports Minister, Mohammed Hussain Shareef speaking to ‘Sunday Island’ after the match, said that his country’s victory was the result of investments at the grassroots level and encouragement given to the youth.


"In the Maldives, football is not just a sport, it’s a passion. Since our historic SAFF championship win in 2008, this trophy is our first regional success," he said adding that they looked forward to hosting the next edition of the tournament in Male in 2013.


Shareef was full of praise for Sri Lanka’s Sports Minister, Mahindananda Aluthgamage for hosting the tournament and the Sports Ministry and the Football Federation for what he called excellent arrangements.


The Maldivian team, he said had returned home to a heroes’ welcome, led by President Mohmmed Waheed.


Hosts Sri Lanka and Pakistan ended with four points each, but Pakistan entered the final with a superior goal difference. Bangladesh was placed last. However, in the league match they beat the Maldives which rested some of its better players since it had already qualified for the final.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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