Afc challenge cup qualifier: Nepal beat hosts, qualify

Phnom Penh, May 26:

A solitary goal by Jumanu Rai saw Nepal beat hosts Cambodia 1-0 and qualify for the AFC Challenge Cup here at the National Olympic Stadium today.

Jumanu, who scored a brace in Nepal’s thrilling 3-2 victory over Macau in the first Group D game , was again on target a minute before the break. The Nepal Police striker latched on to a Sandeep Rai pass and skirted a Cambodian defender before finding the net.

Yoo Kee Heung’s Cambodia started offensively but Nepal custodian Ritesh Thapa thwarted their attempts. Nepal had the first crack at the goal in the 17th minute but Jumanu’s header sailed over the bar.

Cambodia almost took the lead in the 28th minute but Sam El Nasa’s freekick from the

edge of the box went over the bar. Jumanu gave Nepal the lead but the visitors failed to add on to their tally after the break as Ananta Thapa and Lok bandhu Gurung were off the target in the 47th and 81st minutes respectively.

“This is a big achievement as we have made it to the finals of the AFC Challenge Cup,” said Ju Manu, the lone forward employed by Nepal’s German coach Thomas Flath.

Nepali skipper Rakesh Shrestha credited team effort and right combination for the win. “The achievement will definitely help develop the Nepali football,” added Shrestha, who completed the 40th cap for his country in this match.

Indicating towards the five players sidelined through injury, Flath said, “It’s great to win despite playing without five of our regulars.”

Cambodia Korean coach Yoo Kee Heung, who also happens to be the former coach of Nepal, expressed happiness over his team’s display. “Despite short preparation, our boys played very nice football,” Heung said.

With the victory, Nepal completed the line-up for the second edition of the main competition which takes place in Hyderabad, India, from July 30 to August 10. Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and defending champions Tajikistan have already confirmed their berths in the eight-team finals while hosts India, DPR Korea, Myanmar and Turkmenistan have direct entry.

Meanwhile, Nepali team is set to return to Thailand for their preparation for the SAFF Championship to be held in Maldives from June 3. After four-day stay in Thailand, Nepal will leave for Maldives on May 31.