New Delhi: The Maldives and Nepal qualified for the semi-finals of the SAFF Cup football tournament from Group B at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Tuesday.
The Maldives won 3-1 against Bangladesh, the highest ranked team in the tournament, while Nepal and Pakistan played out a 1-1 draw. Both the Maldives and Nepal finished with five points each but the Maldives emerged as group toppers on better goal difference.
The Maldives rode on the brilliance of Ahmed Thariq (6th, 17th) while the experienced Ali Ashfaq added the third in the 70th minute. Bangladesh scored the lone goal through Sahedul Shahed in the 29th minute.
The Maldives troubled Bangladesh with their speed and precision. The tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean went ahead in the sixth minute with a stunning header from Thariq off a precise cross from Mohammed Umair.
Nine minutes later, the Maldives doubled the lead after Ashfaq made a solo run and dribbled past defenders and unselfishly set it up for Thariq, who tapped it in.
Bangladesh pulled one back in the 29th minute with Shahed's delightful chip over the Maldives goalkeeper.
The Maldives added the third goal in the 70th minute as Ashfaq muscled past the Bangladesh defence and went around the goalkeeper to make it 3-1.
Earlier in the day, Nepal played a 1-1 draw with Pakistan and became the first team to qualify for the semi-final. The two teams played cautiously waiting for either to commit the mistake.
Nepal broke the deadlock in the 37th minute as an unmarked Bharat Khawas slotted in from Rajju Tamang's corner-kick.
Pakistan found the equaliser three minutes into the second half, through Samar Ishaq from the penalty spot after Sandip Rai fouled Kaleem Ullah inside the box.
The game was stopped for five minutes for a clash between between Nepal's Rabin Shreshta and Muhammed Rizwan Asif of Pakistan.