Vol. 5 Num 549 Mon. December 12, 2005  

SAFF Championship
Afghans leave on high note

Hosts Pakistan and last year's runners-up Maldives produced the first draw of the Fourth SAFF Championship when they failed to break the deadlock in their last Group A match here yesterday.

The two semifinalists finished level on seven points but the goalless draw at the floodlit People's Sports Complex Stadium saw Maldives emerge group champions with a superior goal difference.

Meanwhile, the Afghan booters will return home holding their heads high after registering their first ever victory in the regional competition earlier in the day.

Afghanistan, who made their SAFF debut in Dhaka in 2003, were humiliated 9-1 by Maldives in their opening match but shocked Sri Lanka 2-1 in their last group encounter to bow out on a winning note.

Hafizullah Qadami fired the ball into the roof of the net from the edge of the penalty area to put Afghanistan ahead in the 35th minute while Abdul Maroof Gulestani doubled the lead with a 20-yard freekick six minutes later.

Table-bottomers Sri Lanka, who have lost all their matches, scored a consolation goal through Karunaratne, whose intended cross from the right flank fooled the rival goalkeeper five minutes from time.

Afghanistan, who lost 1-0 to hosts Pakistan, finished third in the group.