Nepal, Yemen settle for draw

  • Asian Cup Qualifiers
- PRAJWAL OLI, Kathmandu

Jun 14, 2017-A dominant Nepal played out a goalless draw with Yemen during the second game of the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers at the APF grounds in Halchowk on Tuesday.

Nepal, who lost 4-1 away to Philippines in their first match on March 28, earned first point in Group ‘F’. Yemen climbed to top with four points, but could fall behind to second depending on the outcome of Tajikistan vs Philippines match. Philippines have three points and Tajikistan pointless.

After surviving an early scare, Nepal took the game under control. Nepal played mostly on their opponents’ half but failed to capitalise their domination into scoring goals. The home team kept the momentum in the second half as well with the visitors making a rare attempt on goal. The draw against the 126th ranked opponents did not disappoint Nepal coach Gyotoku Koji. “It is not a bad result afterall,” said the Japanese national. Referring to India friendly a week ago which Nepal lost 2-0, Koji said: “Our forwards made a remarkable improvement since our last outing (against India).”

Nepal started with Bishal Rai in midfield in the absence of Bikram Lama, who was suspended after seeing red against Philippines. Rai was paired with Anjan Bista, Sujal Shrestha and Rohit Chand. Ananta Tamang, Aditya Chaudhary and Kamal Shrestha took charge in defense led by veteran skipper Biraj Maharjan.

Goalkeeper Kiran Limbu rescued Nepal early in the 12th minute denying Yemen forward Ahmed Babil Hazaea in one-on-one encounter. Limbu believed his team’s friendly clash helped a lot to improve their performance. “We did not play any competitive match before Philippines tie and lost heavily,” said Limbu, who was representing Nepal for the 47th time.

Nepali forward line spearheaded by Armyman Nawayug Shrestha and Bharat Khawas combined to make an assault on the opponents’ post in the 14th minute only for the latter to fire above the bar. Nepal missed a sitter in the 26th minute as midfielder Sujal Shrestha and Khawas both failed to connect a corner supplied by Anjan Bista at the goalline. Two minutes into the second half, the hosts squandered another scoring chance. Ananta Tamang was left unmarked in the Yemen danger zone but the defender headed a corner from Sujal Shrestha wide of the target.

The only real threat from Yemen in second half came in the 54th when Ahmed Nabil Hazaea scorcher at the far post sailed wide. Ten minutes later Bista forced Yemen goalie Mohammed Ebrahim Ayash to a diving save. In the 79th, Chand’s low drive from the edge of the area sailed inches wide after taking a slight deflection from the opponent’s defender.

Yemen coach Abraham Mebratu was also satisfied with the result. “It is satisfying to earn a draw in away game,” he said. “We came for three points but even a point is also not bad.” Mebratu was also optimistic of his side’s entry into the finals. “We still have many matches left. So there is chance for us to make history,” he said about the West Asian side who have never made to the final rounds of the tournament.

The 24-team Qualifiers—divided into six pools—offer 12 berths for the finals to be played in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The 12 teams will join defending champions Australia, China, Iraq, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Thailand, Uzbekistan and hosts UAE in the finals.

Published: 14-06-2017 09:05

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