Maldives National Football Team, affectionately known as the ‘Red Snappers’, are crowned SAFF Champions once more, nearly a decade later, asserting regional dominance after beating rival India by two goals to one on Saturday.
After showcasing exceptional skill in beating Nepal 3 goals to nil, Maldives advanced to the final full of hope and determination, intending to and capitalizing on the opportunity to once more take home the regional title.
Having lost to India in the group stages of the championship, the Red Snappers took an early lead when the 22-year-old forward from Maziya, Naiz Hassan (Dhaadhu) assisted the Feydhoo, Seenu Atoll native 25-year-old Ibrahim Mahudhee Hassan (Ibbe) to secure the lead in the 19th minute.
Afterwards, the Maldivian squad showcased their defensive prowess against a prominent Indian attack, only to suffer a small stint when captain and defender Akram Abdul Ghanee (Aku) was substituted due to an injury sustained during the 38th minute of the match.
The second goal was scored by Ali Fasir (Sentey) in the 66th minute after exploiting the pressing Indian attack with a fierce 'Red Snapping' counter-attack, while India managed to score a consolation goal in the 92nd minute of the game, during stoppage time.
Marking the fifth time the country made their way to the finals of the biennial international men's football championships, Maldives have won the coveted SAFF title for a second time.
The same starting 11 that faced the Nepalese squad in the semi-final were selected to face India in the final.
Football lovers around the country have taken to the streets and on social media to express their pride over the much anticipated victory on Saturday.