Sports

Nepal win, reignite semi-final hopes

- HIMESH RATNA BAJRACHARYA, DHAKA

Nepal reignited hopes of reaching the SAFF Championship semi-final with a 4-0 hammering of Bhutan at the Bangabandhu Stadium in Dhaka on Thursday.


Nepal, who lost to Pakistan 2-1 in their opening Group ‘A’ match on Tuesday, netted three goals in the second half after Bhutan were reduced to 10 men in the 68th minute. Ananta Tamang, Sunil Bal, Bharat Khawas and Nirajan Khadka were on targets for Nepal. The victory also maintained Nepal’s 100 percent winning record against Bhutan. Bal was the standout performer scoring one and creating two other goals.


Nepal will now take on hosts Bangladesh in their third and final group match on Saturday. “I am happy to maintain our winning record against Bhutan. It was a must-win game and the boys delivered in pressure match,” said Nepal coach Bal Gopal Maharjan, adding his boys did not repeat the mistakes that resulted in his side’s losing to Pakistan on Tuesday.


Nepal coach Maharjan opted to start with forward Bal, midfielder Bishal Rai and defender Dinesh Rajbanshi resting regular skipper Biraj Maharjan and forwards Nawayug Shrestha and Khawas. Maharjan and Khawas came as second half substitutes as Nepal came up with much improved show in comparison to opener against Pakistan.


Nepal were in firm control of the match from the onset and opened the scoring in the 21st minute through defender Ananta Tamang. Tamang connected a header following a Bal corner from the six-yard box to put Nepal ahead. Bhutan tested Nepal goalkeeper and stand-in skipper Chemjong in the 36th when he caught Bhutan skipper Karma Shedrup Tshering’s attempt.


Nepal kept consistent pressure in the second half creating several scoring opportunities. In the 63rd, a low strike from Rohit Chand was denied by Bhutan goalie Tshering Dendup and a minute later Tamang’s acrobatic shot from the area landed straight into the grateful hands of Bhutan goalkeeper.


Bhutan thought they reduced the deficit in the 65th only to see the referee rule it as offside. Nepal came closer to scoring in the 68th when midfielder Anjan Bista’s one-touch strike found the upright in a Sujal Shrestha cross. A minute later Nepal was awarded a penalty after Khadka, the 62nd minute replacement for Bishal Rai, was brought down in the area by defender Nima Wangdi. The defender was sent off for his second caution of the match unnecessarily  arguing with the referee.


Bimal Gharti Magar stepped in to take the spot kick but was denied by Bhutan custodian Dendup. Bal was quick to react though, slamming home on the rebound. Khawas, who replaced Bista in the 76th minute, made the impact three minutes after entering the ground, scoring the third and his 10th international goal. He netted in a solitary effort taking the ball from the midfield before cutting back into the area and shooting at the far post beyond the reach of diving goalkeeper.


Khawas came close to scoring the fourth goal in the 83rd but his one-touch strike on a pass from Sujal was acrobatically palmed away by custodian Dendup. Khadka completed the rout scoring another goal two minutes from time.  

Published: 2018-09-07 09:18:07