Sri Lanka kept their hopes for a spot in the SAFF Suzuki Cup semifinals alive by holding title aspirants Maldives to a goalless draw in a Group B encounter at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.
The outcome of yesterday's match advanced defending champions India to the semifinals as the first team following Wednesday's win over Sri Lanka, who will now pray for India to beat Maldives by more than a two-goal margin to help them make it to the last four.
Though Sri Lanka struggled against seven-time champions India, the Islanders put up a really brilliant performance against neighbouring Maldives and probably were unlucky not to have posted a win, despite creating more scoring chances than Maldives, who seemed to be running after their own shadows without star striker Ali Ashfaq.
However, it was Maldives who came close to taking the lead in the third minute but Sri Lanka goalkeeper Sujan Perera gathered a close-range header from Ibrahim Hassan Waheed off a Hassan Naiz corner. Sri Lanka then almost broke the deadlock through Mohammad Fazal but the effort was ruled offside.
Sujan then denied Maldives again by stopping Naiz in the 27th minute before Afeel Mohamed missed the target narrowly four minutes from the break, much to the disappointment of Sri Lanka.
After resumption, Maldives cornered Sri Lanka by applying huge pressure with Ali Fasir missing the target narrowly from a free-kick on the edge of the box while Mohamed Irufaan failed to connect in front of an open Sri Lankan net in the 56th minute.
Afterwards, the show belonged to Sri Lanka, who created four scoring chances but unfortunately could not avail those, with Maldives goalkeeper Mohamed Faisal playing a tremendous role between the sticks, denying the charges of Nizam Packeer Ali time and again.