Sports

Last-gasp goal stuns Nepal

  • Saff Championship
- HIMESH RATNA BAJRACHARYA

Sep 5, 2018-

DHAKA,

Nepal kicked off the Saff Championship football tournament campaign with a 2-1 defeat against Pakistan at the Bangabandu Stadium in Dhaka on Tuesday.

Muhammad Ali struck the winner in the dying moments of the five-minute of injury time. The defeat dents Nepal’s goal of qualifying to semi-final from Group ‘A’. Nepal take on Bhutan on Thursday before playing hosts Bangladesh on Saturday in the remaining two matches. Top two teams from each of the two groups reach the semi-finals. The other group consists of India, Sri Lanka and Maldives.   

Despite conceding the first half goal from spot kick in the 36th minute, Nepal pulled back an equaliser in the 83rd minute through forward Bimal Gharti Magar. But poor marking coupled with equally poor defence in the last minute to cost Nepal dear as they conceded the winning goal for Pakistan.

Despite the defeat, coach Bal Gopal Maharjan was hopeful of his team’s entry into knockout stage. Maharjan said: “We made bright start but lost control in the last moment. I am proud of my players,” said Maharjan.

The defeat was fifth for Nepal against Pakistan in their previous 15 encounters. Nepal have won five and drawn five other matches against Pakistan. The last time the two teams met it was Gharti Magar scored in a 1-1 draw during the group stage of 2013 Saff Championship.

In an evenly contested first half, Nepal failed to capitalise a in the 13th minute when winger Nawayug Shrestha headed off target following a cross from debutant defender Suman Aryal. In the 25th minute, skipper Biraj Maharjan ended up firing straight into the grateful hands of Yousaf Ijaz Butt. But Pakistan took the lead in the 34th minute through penalty. Jordanian referee Mahmoud Arafah awarded the spot kick after captain Maharjan brought down Muhammad Riaz in the area. Hassan Naweed Bashir duly converted the penalty.

Nepal came up with much improved show in the second half after coach Bal Gopal Maharjan replaced winger Shrestha with central midfielder Nirajan Khadka in the 67th and forward Bharat Khawas with Sunil Bal. Immediately after taking to the field Khadka ended up shooting wayward from a Sujal Shrestha back pass.

Nepal survived a scare in the later stages of the game when Saadullah darted with the ball in a counter attack only to see his shot crash at the woodwork. Gharti Magar then pulled Nepal level in the 82nd minute, simply guiding the ball at the top right from the crowded area.

Moments later Nepal custodian Kiran Chemjong made a diving shot to deny Ali’s strike. Nepal appeared to have sealed the match in the 90th minute but Pakistan custodian made two brilliant saves.

The Pakistan goalkeeper parried Khadka’s scorcher from the edge of area which landed to Sujal and the goalie yet again thwarted a goal attempt. Unmarked Ali then sealed the match for Pakistan thanks largely to the poor Nepali defending and casual approach.

Published: 05-09-2018 08:27

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