Error-prone Nepal go down against India

DHAKA: Nepal are left with a least chance to qualify for the semi-finals of the sixth South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship after they lost 1-0 to India here at the Bangabandhu Stadium today.

Nepal squandered a bunch of scoring opportunities in their crucial league match of Group B to remain at the third position with one point. India, who have fielded Under-23 squad in the tournament, qualified for the semi-finals with six points from two wins.

Defending champions Maldives earlier in the day defeated Afghanistan 3-1 to occupy the second spot with four points. Afghanistan are out of the contention with two back to back losses.

Nepal now not only have to defeat Afghanistan with a huge margin but also have to expect the similar result from India while they take on Maldives. Nepal played a 1-1 draw with Maldives in their first league match.

Jibon Singh scored the solitary goal for India in the 18th minute cashing on a free kick awarded after a foul from Biraj Maharjan outside the area. Nepal goalkeeper Bikash Malla puched a powerful free-kick from Balwant Singh but a Nepali defender failed to clear the ball and Jibon netted the goal. Goalie Malla should have gathered the ball that hit the cross bar after a Nepali defender hit the woodwork while trying to clear it.

Nepal's midfield failed to show its true colours while influential striker Jumanu Rai was perfectly marked by the Indian defence line up that did not allow the Nepali striker make impact.

Jumanu failed to beat the Indian glovesman Arindam Bhattacharya in a one-to-one situation in the 10th minute. Five minutes later, Anil Gurung headed a curling free kick from Raju Tamang but Bhattacharya got his hands to it. The custodian twice denied skipper Sagar Thapa punching a powerful shot in the 31st minute and another sensational free-kick in the 43rd.

Earlier, the skipper saved Nepal from a possible goal clearing the ball from goalline after Joe Kim Santam Abranches was successful beating goalie Malla. Nepal enjoyed a better possession in the second half but failed to bounce back in the match.

Anil Gurung failed to cash in on a decent cross from Jumanu in the 47th minute and a minute later it was the same striker who muffed up a a cross from Jumanu. The strikers duo came close in the 72nd minute but Anil faltered again.

Jumanu wasted an opportunity in one-to-one situation in the 60th minute and four minutes later Santosh Sahukhala was unable to reach the pass from Anil. Nepal got a good support from the local crowd but the team gave nothing in return. Nepal's loss against India was third in a row in the SAFF Championship and 10th overall in 12 encounters.

Nepali coach Krishna Thapa was aware that the team fell in difficult situation to advance to the last four and said his team was doomed to lose the match against India.

Indian coach Sukhwinder Singh accepted that Nepal played well and said his custodian Arindam Bhattacharya was the player of the match.