By A Staff Reporter Kathmandu, Sept 20: The defending champions Nepal made a poor start at SAFF U-18 Championship 2019 as they played a 1-1 draw against the Maldives in their opening match at Armed Police Force (APF) Stadium, Halchowk, Kathmandu on Friday. Nepal’s dream to win title hat-trick received a dent after the Maldives forced a stalemate in the first match of the group stage. Skipper Hassan Nazeem and the Nepal’s Manish Dangi netted one goal apiece. Skipper Hassan Nazeem put the visitors ahead in the 13th minute of the match through a spot kick. The Maldives was awarded the spot kick after Nepal player Roshan Dong had brought down the Maldives skipper Hassan Nazeem inside the box. The Nepali colts entered ground with an aim of the scoring a hat-trick of the title but after conceding the early goal from the Maldives, Nepali boys were under the pressure in the first half. And after the break, they put up a convincing performance and leveled the score 1-1 in the 75th minute through Manish Dangi who scored off a header utilizing a cross from Birjesh Chaudhary. Nepal dominated the pitch in the second half as they creates more than half dozen of the chances against Visitor but Nepali young guns effort went in a vain as the match ended 1-1 draw. Chaudhary failed in the one-versus-one in the 20th minute and again failed in the 59th minute after his strike went out inches away from the cross bar in the pass off captain Jaya Gurung. Similarly, Nepali skipper Gurung’s powerful strike from 20 yard was denied by the Maldives goalie in the 63rd minute and Nitin Thapa also failed to grab three points for the team as his powerful strike was rebounded off the cross bar. Nepal will take on Bhutan on its last match of the group ‘A’ on Sunday. Nepal has been drawn into the group ‘A’ alongside the Maldives and Bhutan while title contender India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka has been drawn into the group ‘B’. The top two teams from the each group will advance to the semi-final of the tournament.