Dragon Boys were 10 minutes short of winning their first WC qualifier 

Football: Bhutan was 10 minutes away from registering its first win in the second round of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Maldives at the national stadium in Male, Maldives on Tuesday.

Striker Chencho Gyeltshen who played as a left-winger gave the Dragon Boys a perfect start in their quest to pick up their first points when he scored the first goal in the seventh minute.

Despite missing some of the key players in the defence line, the Bhutanese team displayed one of their best games so far in the qualifiers. Major reshuffles from coach Pema were seen during the match.

Lhendup Dorji, Man Bahadur Gurung, Biren Basnet and Chimi Dorji formed a solid defense line for the team. The fastest players on the team, Chencho Gyeltshen and Diwash Subba were placed as wingers and Tshering Dorji and Tshering Wangdi in the front.

Apparently, coach Pema’s 4-4-2 tactical placements worked for the team. With a well organized positioning, the Dragon Boys this time were not only guarding the shoreline but also attacking with the same pace.

However, with eight minutes to go in the first half, midfielder Asadhulla Abdulla equalized for Maldives.

Three minutes into the second half, Maldives conceded a penalty after a handball from Ahmed Abdulla. The Dragon Boys reclaimed the lead from Tshering Dorji’s screamer from the penalty spot.

The Maldivian skipper, Ali Ashfaq, who was playing his last international match, was left frustrated on the filed having failed to convert several opportunities. The visitors tried everything possible to prevent the skipper from ending his footballing career on a higher note on his own home ground.

Much to the dismay of all Bhutanese players, a penalty was awarded to Maldives, which skipper Ali Ashfaq successfully converted in the 81st minute to tie the game. The Bhutanese defense tumbled when defender Chimi Dorji was taken out after an injury in the 87th minute. After a 2-1 deficit until the 80th minute, Maldives took the lead when substitute Hassan Naiz scored with just three minutes left on the clock.

Ali Ashfaq delivered the final blow that sealed the game for the Dragon Boys in the stoppage time. Despite a brilliant performance by the highlanders, the battle ended in favor of the islanders.

With zero point, Bhutan finishes at the bottom of Group C at the end of the second round of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

Younten Tshedup