Substitute Manish Dangi scored the solitary goal four minutes before time as Nepal defeated hosts Maldives 1-0 in the opening day match of the 13th SAFF Championship at the National Stadium in Male today.

At a time when the match was heading towards a tame draw, Dangi - who had replaced Nawayug Shrestha in the 69th minute - produced the moment of brilliance in the 86th minute when he dodged two Maldives defenders before firing past goalkeeper Mohamed Faisal. The victory is first for Nepal against Maldives in the history of SAFF Championship.

The home team dominated the game in the first half and Nepali players were content to defending the ball. Skipper and goalkeeper Kiran Kumar Limbu did his best to deny Maldives time and again. At the other end, Nepal did create a couple of chances in counterattack but the players failed to find the back of the nets.

Nepal came close to opening the scoring in the 11th minute but Sujal Shrestha could not trouble Maldives goalkeeper Faisal, while Rohit Chand made a feeble attempt from inside the box following a pass from Nawayug Shrestha a minute later.

Nepal came out as a different side in the second half and Maldives custodian collected Tej Tamang's longe-range shot. Anjan Bista was able to beat the home team's offside trap and he crossed the ball into the box only to be cleared by the defenders. Bista shot into the hands of Faisal in the 65th minute.

Earlier, Bangladesh defeated Sri Lanka 1-0 to make the winning start. Nepal and Bangladesh earned three points each on the opening day. Nepal have never been able to reach the final of the SAFF Championship.

They had faced a 3-0 loss at the hands of Maldives in the semi-final of the previous edition.

A version of this article appears in the print on October 2, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.