Lebanon secured a 1-0 win over the Maldives in a Group B match of the SAFF Championship 2023 held at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Wednesday, June 28. The winning goal came in the 24th minute courtesy of captain Hassan Maatouk. Lebanon finished at the top of the group with a perfect record. As a result, they will face India in the semi-finals on Saturday. The two teams recently met in the final of the Hero Intercontinental Cup, with India emerging as the winners.
The Maldives, ranked 154th in the FIFA Men’s rankings, aimed to achieve an upset victory against Lebanon, a team they had never defeated before. However, their hopes were dashed by Hassan Maatouk’s lone goal. Since Lebanon had already secured a spot in the semi-finals, their head coach, Aleksandar Ilic, decided to rest some of the regular players, including Karim Darwich.
Lebanon started the match positively, maintaining possession and putting pressure on the Maldives defense. The deadlock was finally broken in the 24th minute when Lebanon was awarded a free kick just outside the penalty box. Captain Hassan Maatouk stepped up and curled a right-footed shot into the net, beating Maldives goalkeeper Hussain Shareef with the help of a deflection.
Lebanon continued to dominate the game, causing problems for the Maldives defense. Hassan Maatouk combined effectively with Mohamad Sadek and Zein Al Abidine Farran, creating scoring opportunities. Shortly after the opening goal, Lebanon missed a golden chance to extend their lead when Mohamad Sadek failed to convert from close range.
Despite their efforts, the Maldives failed to test Lebanon goalkeeper Mehdi Khalil and did not manage to register a shot on target. In the second half, Lebanon tried to increase their advantage, but Hussain Shareef made crucial saves to deny them further goals. The Maldives ended their SAFF Championship campaign with only one win in three matches.
Meanwhile, in the final Group B match of the SAFF Championship 2023, Bangladesh came out on top, defeating Bhutan 3-1. Having finished second in their group, Bangladesh will now face Group A leaders Kuwait in the semi-finals, scheduled for Saturday.
The match between Bangladesh and Bhutan was highly competitive, with both teams displaying determination to achieve a positive outcome. Bhutan took an early lead in the 12th minute when Tsenda Dorji scored an impressive goal from outside the box, beating Bangladesh goalkeeper Anisur Rahman with precision.
Bhutan’s goal boosted their morale, and they continued to apply pressure. Nima Wangdi came close to doubling their lead in the 17th minute with a powerful long-range strike that hit the crossbar.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh maintained their intensity and relentlessly pursued an equaliser. Their efforts paid off in the 21st minute when Shekh Morsalin unleashed a strong left-footed shot from the edge of the box, beating Bhutan goalkeeper Gyeltshen Zangpo.
Ten minutes later, Bangladesh took the lead as Rakib Hossain’s attempt to pass Morsalin’s cross inside the box deflected off defender Phuntsho Jigme, resulting in an own goal.
Seizing the lead injected confidence into the Bangladesh team, who then took control of the game and launched several attacks. In the 36th minute, Rakib Hossain exhibited individual brilliance by scoring from a difficult angle on the right side. His shot hit the inside of the far post and found the back of the net, extending Bangladesh’s lead to 3-1.