Princeton Rebello and Abhishek Halder score classy goals as the Blue Colts upstage Maldives to get back on track in SAFF U-18 Championships.

The Indian Football team made it two-in-two with another dominating win over Maldives in their third encounter of the SAFF U-18 Championships. Floyd Pinto’s boys started the game on the front foot and continued the domination until the final whistle as the team made it six points in three games after losing the first one against Bangladesh. India displayed one of their best performances so far in the second half, trying at least 15 shots, though they failed to score. 

The first chance of the game came for India in as early as the 3rd minute, with a long ball from Bhutia being controlled by Princeton in the box, who played it to Lalawmpuia. The Indian No. 9 attempted a shot but was blocked. Five minutes later, Abhishek almost scored with a pile-diver, but a brilliant save saw the attempt parried away.

India had a lot of space to operate as Maldives decide to sit back and operate, playing in a 4-5-1 shape. Maldives first attack came at the 14th-minute mark, with a cross coming in from the left, only to be handled by Aditya after scampering it at the first attempt. Roshan made a potshot on goal a minute later as India continued to dominate proceedings.


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The first goal came completely against the run of play, as a long ball from the Maldivian backline came inside the Indian box, and Aditya missed it completely, allowing a forward to attack. The goalkeeper made the first save, but could only push the ball back centrally, allowing an easy tap-in. The score went in Maldives’ favour 1-0. India looked agitated post this, with Edmund, Princeton and Abhishek attempting to score at every opportunity.

The Indian No. 7 got a free kick in an interesting position but hit the wall. The first injury of the game came in the 23rd minute as a Maldivian attacker went down. In the 26th minute, former DSK player Pranjal Bhumij made a move down the right but the move was defended for a corner. The ensuing corner was headed over by Bhutia. India continued to dominate and won another corner two minutes later. Princeton headed it way wide, and the game continued. A cross came in from Bhutia, which was headed over.

In the 35th minute, India began a move. Passing the ball brilliantly in the opposition half, India knew that they’d have to build from the back, and they did exactly that. A lobbed through from Bhutia saw Edmund vying for the ball in the Maldives’ box, but the attempt was cleared by the opposition goalkeeper. The clearance fell to Abhishek Halder, who calmly lobbed it to Abhishek in the box, and the FC Goa forward finished it with a low, well-placed volley.

Four minutes later, India made it 2-1 with an Abhishek worldly. The Indian version of Paul Pogba dribbled past two opponents and hit a powerful shot from his left foot from 30 yards out, giving the goalkeeper no chance. In the last few minutes of the first half, Maldives tried to make a move with a good through ball into the Indian box, which Aditya came out to stop. The opposition striker fouled the Indian No. 1.

Two minutes later, Abhishek had another shot on target from distance, this time from his right foot, which was finger-tipped out for another corner. The first half ended 2-1, with India controlling the proceeding.

In the second half, Maldives started brightly. In the first five minutes, a lot of balls were won by the opposition in the midfield, making life difficult for Zonunmawia and Abhishek Halder. In the 52nd minute, Maldives got a corner, which was cleared by a Shil header. An ensuing shot came in, which was handled by Aditya well. India slowly grew into the game slowly and calmly.

In the 56th minute, Pranjal won a free kick with a run down the right. Edmund tried to hit a powerful shot into the corner but skied it. Princeton had scored from a similar area against Bangladesh and should’ve taken it. Two minutes later, Edmund tried a potshot from distance but is wide. A minute later, he re-tried the same thing, but this time, had his shot saved for a corner.

India got four corners in the space of five minutes after this, making little use of it. Edmund looked in his own zone, beating players at will. The India No. 7 tried 5 shots in the second half of the game, failing to score. In the 68th minute, Maldives had scored, but their forward was deemed offside by the linesman.

SAFF U-18 Championships: India 2-1 Maldives

Three minutes later, Indian defender Namgyal Bhutia ran into the box played a wall pass with Lalawnpuia, with the No. 9 attempting to turn and shoot. The ball went well over. In the 73rd minute, Abhishek tried another low shot from distance but was wide. At this same point, Lalawmpuia made way for Baoringdao Bodo.

Maldives came close to scoring an own goal in the 79th minute as Pranjal made another extensive run in the opposition half and cut in, only to have a deflection put the ball just wide across the face of goal. Three minutes later, the No. 11 made another run down the right, passed to Bodo, with the striker turning and attempting a shot. The shot was blocked and it went out for a corner.

In the last ten minutes of the game, Edmund tried three shots on target, all from outside the box, but none of them were on the mark. In the 90th minute, the Indian No. 7 made a mess of a free kick which should’ve been curled into the far post, hitting it well over. Maldives had two players injured in the 75th and 83rd minute of the game.

India play Nepal on the 27th of October in their last encounter of the SAFF U-18 Championships.