Shrestha opened the scoring for Nepal in the 31st minute and scored the other two goals in the second half after Bisha Rai had made it 2-0. Nahid Ahmed bagged the consolation goal for Maldives in the 77th minute.
Nepal will take on Bahrain U-23 in the finals to be held on Jan. 22.
“I would like to thank my team-mates for helping me score the goals as football is a team game. I am very happy as this was first international goal. Cheers for the Nepali fans,” said Shrestha after receiving the Man-of-the-match.
It was certainly one of the most successful wins for Nepal in recent years as Bal Gopal Maharjan’s youthful side looked charged up against the Maldives side who had advanced to last four as the winners of Group B and on the back of a flurry of goals as opposed to Nepal’s just one which came against Sri Lanka.
What made the win more special was it was the first victory against Maldives in 17 years. The last time Nepal bagged a win against the Islander was in 1999.
Just as the score-line suggested, Nepal looked bright from the very start and had their first sight on goal in the 13th minute when Heman Gurung made a quick back-heel to find Navayug inside the 18-yard box but the referee was quick to flag the move for an offside. Minutes later, Navayug was again in thick of things, and this time his shot from Bikram Lama’s pass was put out of harm’s way by a full stretched Maldives keeper.
Nepal also had a penalty appeal turned down by the referee in the 22nd minute.
Navayug put Nepal in the front foot in the 31st minute, thanks to Bimal Gharti’s Magar shot that was parried by the keeper right in front on an un-rushing Navayug who made no mistake from close range.
At the other end, Bikesh Kuthu denied a powerful attempt taken from inside the 18-yard box in the 44th minute.
Bishal Rai made it 2-0 for Nepal in the 50th minute from a cross Rabin Shrestha delivered inside the six-yard box. The ball had actually found Anjan Bista who chose to lay it to Rai to hammer from close range.
Nayaug widened the margin in the 62nd minute. Bikram Lama put Navayug through on goals and the Army striker blasted it at the roof of the net.
Cracks started appearing in the Nepali defense which had stood strong all this time in the final 20 minutes, and Maldives took full advantage of the situation cutting the deficit in 76th minute through Nashid Ahmed who easy beat an injured looking Biraj Maharjan in the near post. Maldives almost found their second four minutes later but were unlucky see it denied by the upright.
Navayug ended any chance of a comeback in the first minute of the four-minute added injury time connecting Bikram lama’s cross.