Kathmandu, September 22
Two-time defending champions Nepal youth football team suffered to a shock 3-0 loss at the hands of Bhutan in the Group A match of the SAFF U-18 Championship here at the Nepal APF Club grounds today.
Yeshi Dorji, Kelzang Jigmi and Karma Sonam scored a goal each for the visitors who confirmed the semi-finals berth from the group. With the defeat in their second and final league round match after a 1-1 draw with Maldives in the opener, Nepal’s chances of advancing to the last four seemed bleak. Bhutan will take on Maldives in the last match of the league round and the former needed to win the game by the margin of four or more goals if Nepal are to make it to the semi-finals.
Nepal’s loss against Bhutan is only the second after their 1-0 defeat in the second edition of the tournament in Thimpu two years ago. Despite the loss in their first match, Nepal went on to defend the title by winning the remaining four matches including 2-0 victory over India in the last league match. Nepal had won the first edition title on home soil in 2015 with a 5-4 victory over India on penalties after a 1-1 draw.
On Sunday, Bhutan took the lead in the 37th minute when Dorji found the back of the nets from the crowded d-box.
Bhutan added two goals in the last four minutes to seal the victory. Jigmi earned the penalty after Bishal Basnet brought him down in the danger zone and he converted from the spot to double the lead in the 86th minute. Sonam then scored from the edge of the box to rub salt on Nepal’s wounds moments before the final whistle.
The home team was totally outplayed by the visiting side as Nepali players seemed technically and physically weaker than their opponents.
The players failed to make justice to their roles and responsibilities in all areas and they were not able to return to the match due to the lack of proper planning from the team management, especially after conceding the first goal. The team also could not put up an improved show in the second half. Overall, the team lost on its own and not because of the brilliance of the opponents.
Nepal coach Chet Narayan Shrestha rued the missed opportunities and lauded Bhutanese team. “We remained at the same level, while other countries have taken huge strides towards development.
Bhutan played as a strong side, they were physically superior than us and their standard has gone high,” said Shrestha. He blamed his boys for putting up a poor performance. “This result shows the real standard of our football,” he added.
Bhutan coach Ugyen Dorji said the win was expected one.
“The players performed exceptionally well in today’s match, even better than the expectation. The win was expected but we had not expected to win with this margin,” he added.
On Monday, India will open the campaign with a match against Bangladesh. In Group B, Bangladesh are at the top with three points after their 3-0 victory over Sri Lanka yesterday.
The six participating teams are divided into two pools and top two from both groups will make it to the semi-finals.
A version of this article appears in print on September 23, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.