Maldives win Mahinda Rajapaksa Cup

Poor finishing once again cost Pakistan U23 as the Maldives U23 stuck in well to win the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Football Cup 2012 final 2-1 today at the Jayathilaka Stadium in Nawalapitiya (Sri Lanka).

Pakistan began the game strongly, dominating possession and creating chances. However, the curse of poor finishing and weak shooting let Zavisa Milosavljevic’s boys down again as the game was 0-0 by half-time as Pakistan struck the crossbar and missed free headers in the box.

In 2nd half, Maldives changed a few players and it paid off as they struck twice in quick succession. Rilwan scored from a free-kick in 54th minute before Asadullah made it 2-0 just 4 minutes later to leave Pakistan stunned.

Pakistan came close to reducing the deficit but once again failed to hit the target. Eventually, Pakistan was awarded a penalty in 84th minute for an apparent hand-ball. Maldives coach István Urbányi of Hungary protested the penalty award and was sent to the stands by the referee.

The poorly struck penalty was saved by the Maldives goalkeeper, only for a Maldives defender to bundle the rebound into his own net for an own goal to make it 1-2.

However, despite Pakistan’s best efforts and the referee playing a bizarre 12 minutes of stoppage time, Maldives U23 held on for a memorable win at the end to be crowned Mahinda Rajapaksa Cup champions. Pakistan will be left cursing themselves as their poor finishing woes continue and managing only 1 goal from open play in nearly 370 minutes of football played.

The News adds:

Pakistan were able to reduce the deficit when Saeed Ahmed struck on the rebound of a penalty after Maldives keeper punched Hasnain Abbas’s kick from the spot.

In the injury time, a gruelling fight was witnessed but Pakistan squandered a bundle of chances that came their way.

“Our team played excellent football but once again we missed a lot of chances,” Pakistan coach Zavisa Milosavljevic told ‘The News’ from Nawalapitiya after the match.

“We had dominated the game and our team was much better as compared to our rivals but missed chances really went against us,” said the Serbian, who has been at the helm of Pakistan team’s coaching for the last one year.

“But I am happy that the team played organised and competitive football. We need to further work hard to make progress both tactically and technically,” Zavisa observed.

He said that the team needs more international exposure. “I think there should be more international matches and only then the boys will be able to improve their striking abilities and gain experience,” Zavisa said.

In the league phase Pakistan had defeated Bangladesh 1-0, lost to Maldives 0-1 before holding hosts Sri Lanka to a goalless draw to qualify for the final on the basis of better goal-average than the hosts.

The team will return today (Monday).