Bhutan’s prospects to stay in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers remain in the shadows with the second consecutive loss the team suffered at the hand of the Maldives on June 13.

Coming into the game after an overwhelming defeat of 14-0 against Oman in the first game, the Dragon Boys started the game well at the Changlimithang Stadium. The pressure was evident on the visitors as Bhutan created several chances in the first 30 minutes.

Head coach, Torsten Spittler, introduced two new players to his first-eleven. Probably one of the youngest players to ever feature in a national squad, Orgyen Wangchuk Tshering, did what was expected of him. Playing alongside the skipper, the 17-year-old created a few opportunities for the team.

On the other hand, Chencho Gyeltshen, who was assigned the task to wreck havoc in the Maldivian defence line failed to do so. The Bhutanese were playing a 4-1-4-1 formation, which could have worked well in either of the strategies – attacking and defensive.

The Bhutanese backline looked rock solid with the tall Jigme T Dorji, Tenzin Dorji and the versatile duo of Biren Basnet and Nima Wangdi. Veteran Karun Gurung added to the defence line. Skipper Karma Shedrup Tshering and Tshering Dorji along with debutant Sonam Tobgay and Orgyen Wangchuk took the centre stage with Chencho Gyeltshen in the front.

As wingbacks, Biren and Nima pulled in several crosses but failed to find Chencho in the front. It was Karma Shedrup and Tshering Dorji who contributed most of the chances created by the Bhutanese.

The German’s game plan didn’t work as designed. Although the Dragon Boys managed to maintain a good possession of the ball, the team failed to score.

On the other hand, the Red Snappers, who now are more or less accustomed to playing on the national stadium, took a defensive approach. The idea was to capitalise on the counter attacks.

Darren Stewart’s strategy worked well for the visitors. After a clumsy challenge from defender Tenzin Dorji inside the box, a penalty was awarded to the Maldivian team. Striker Fasir broke the deadlock in the 42nd minute giving the visitors the lead.

With the second half underway, the Dragon Boys were looking more comfortable. Chances were once again created but none could be capitalised.

The game was equally matched in terms of physique and techniques. A goal from Chencho Gyeltshen in the 53rd minute, which was brilliantly crafted in by Karma Shedrup, could have changed the whole game for Bhutan.

Things became bad for the home team when Biren Basnet was taken out in the 72nd minute. Now it was all about speed. The Maldives exploited the left flank more often. The second goal of the match came from the left flank.

With the second consecutive loss for team Bhutan, the chances to stay in the qualifiers have become more difficult. They will face Palestine on September 5.

Palestine who defeated Maldives in their first game is placed at 116 (two places above Oman) in the FIFA World Ranking.

Younten Tshedup