Biratnagar, March 20
Nepal thrashed Sri Lanka 4-0 in the first semi-final match of the SAFF Women’s Championship riding on all-round performance from midfielder Anita Basnet, while India outplayed Bangladesh by the same scoreline, here at the Sahid Rangashala today.
Poonam Jargha Magar, Anita Basnet, Sabitri Bhandari and Rekha Poudel scored one goal as the home side made it to the fourth final in five editions. Nepal, who were runners-up to India in the first three editions, had failed to advance to the final in the previous edition held in the Indian city of Guwahati in 2016.
Anita Basnet stole the limelight in today’s semi-final match as she scored one and set two others for Bhandari and Poudel as Nepal scored three goals in the space of 13 minutes in second half to complete the comprehensive victory.
Jargha Magar opened the scoring in the 42nd minute when she slotted home from close after Sabitra Bhandari missed a header following an overhead kick from skipper Niru Thapa on a free kick from Gita Rana. The defender scored her first international goal in 23 matches to put the home team ahead.
Basnet doubled the lead in the 73rd minute with a right-footed shot into the second bar after collecting a pass from DipaRai inside the penalty box. The goal was second for midfielder Basnet in 22 matches.
After missing a number of chances, Bhandari finally found the back of the nets in the 82nd minute for her 25th international goal to go level with Jamuna Gurung. After exchanging passes with the star striker, Basnet released the ball inside the box and Bhandari did no mistake this time around with a header. Bhandari levelled the mark of Gurung with the goal and they are behind all-time highest scorer Anu Lama, who leads the table with 35 goals.
Substitute Rekha Poudel, who came in place of skipper NiruThapa in the 64th minute, then completed the scoring in the 86th minute when she slotted home from close range following a pass from Basnet.
Poudel, who made her national team debut in the first match against Bhutan as a substitute in place of Sabitra Bhandari in the 88th minute and played for the last four minutes against Bangladesh, netted her first international goal in the third match.
Nepal did not play convincing game in the first half and coach Hari Khadka accepted his girls were lost in the ground. “We are happy to make it to the final with convincing win,” said Khadka. “The players were not up to the mark in the first half as they did not follow the team strategy supplying the ball from wings,” said Khadka. “We had a chat in the break and the players performed as per the team plan. And it will be always difficult to break the deadlock when the opponents opt defensive strategy,” added Khadka.
Sri Lanka coach Rohan Thilak Alponsu said the tournament was learning experience for the team. “Our side is not experienced and
the players were not able to hold the ball for longer duration. We will take this opportunity to improve our team technically and tactically for the overall development of women’s football in Sri Lanka,” he added.
In another semi-final match, the four-time defending champions India defeated Bangladesh 3-0 to set the fourth final with the hosts. DalimaChibber put India ahead in the 17th minute capitalising on an error from Bangladesh goalkeeper
Rupna Chakma. Chhibber found the back of the nets from close after Chakma fumbled the ball on a corner kick from Sanju.
Indumathi Kathiresan doubled the tally in the 22nd minute following a pass from Sanju, who dodged a defender before setting up the goal. Kathiresan then made it 3-0 in the 37th minute after he defeated Chakma in one-on-one situation following a pass from Sandhiya Ranganathan. Substitute player Manisha made it 4-0 in the injury time on a pass from Anju Tamang.
India coach Nayamol Nedugadan Rocky was satisfied with her girls’ performance. “We played well and won the match to make it to the final against Nepal,” said Rocky. Bangladesh coach Golam Robbani Choton said the team played well in the beginning and failed to keep up the tempo after conceding an unnecessary goal. “We conceded the first goal because of a small error from our own player and that ultimately cost us the match,” he said.