The Maldives defeated Bhutan 2-0 in the second game of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers yesterday at the Changlimithang Stadium.

The much-improved Bhutanese side failed to register a point in the group despite a well-started game. Several opportunities including two on-target attempts were generated in the first half.

Things were working well for the home team until the 42nd minute when defender Tenzin Dorji brought down the Maldivian striker, Fasir, inside the box. A penalty, which was calmly booted in by the striker, gave the visitors the lead just minutes before the half time.

With a goal down, the home team reacted in the second half, creating some more opportunities. However, the Dragon boys failed to find a finisher to the opportunities created. Ten minutes into the second half, Chencho Gyelthsen missed from a one-on-one opportunity against the Maldivian goalie, Mohamed Faisal, inside the box.

Veteran Karun Gurung and skipper Karma Shedrup Tshering’s attempts gave hope to some 8,000 spectators gathered at the national stadium. But the goal from defender Abdulla Ahmad in the 75th minute sealed the deal for the Red Snappers.

Team Bhutan’s head coach, Torsten Spittler, said that following a devastating defeat of 14-0 in the last game, the situation was already difficult for the team. “Player were nervous and made mistakes in the beginning,” said the German coach.

However, according to the coach, the team did well in the second half. “With a goal down, the boys played much better and the timing has also improved,” he said. “It was a much better match from the previous game against Maldives. We also missed out on several chances.”

Had Chencho equalised in the first half, the results would have been different said, Torsten Spittler.

Head coach of the Maldives’ team, Darren Stewart, said he is happy with the three points but not satisfied with the way his team played. “The Bhutanese side played extremely well today but I would credit my defence line for their efforts,” he said.

According to him, the penalty came at the “perfect time” just before the half time that gave his team the lead. “I’m happy with the effort but we can play better than today. But again that’s not taking anything away from the Bhutanese team. All of them played well.”

With two games played, Bhutan stands at the bottom of Group D in the qualifiers. Bhutan will host Palestine at the Changlimithang Stadium on September 5.

Younten Tshedup and Nima