Footballers make early exit

DHAKA: Nepal crashed out of the 11th South Asian Games football tournament with a 1-0 defeat against Maldives here at the Bangabandhu National Stadium today.

The second successive loss combined with the Bangladesh's 4-0 win over Bhutan meant Nepal's hopes of repeating the 1993 success evaporated abruptly. Nepal had won the tournament here at the same venue during the sixth SAF Games.

Maldives scored the decisive goal early in the 16th minute thanks to an accidental error from Robin Shrestha. Goalkeeper Bikash Malla collected a back pass but Robin collided with the keeper and, in the process, the defender handled the ball. Referee Ali Hasan awarded the penalty, which Maldives skipper Umar Mohamad converted.

Nepal made the first threatening move in the 21st minute but the I-League Shilling Lajong FC forward Anil Gurung shot weakly into the hands of Maldives goalkeeper Faisal Mohamed. Anil then missed a sitter in the 34th minute with one-on-one situation with keeper Faisal. With nobody marking him, Anil chest-controlled a long pass but shot straight to Maldives custodian Faisal.

Maldives were close to double their tally in the 37th minute but Gasim Shamweet headed wide from close range. Anil made an acrobatic attempt on a cross from Ju Manu Rai in the first half injury time but he could not connect the ball properly.

Nepal were a better side after the break exerting contineous pressure but it was Maldives who got the chance to double their lead when Bahrain referee Ali Hasan adjudged goalie Malla to have fouled Abdul Ghani Akram inside the box.

Stunned Nepali players almost walked out of the pitch protesting the decision. The match resumed 10 minutes later only after ANFA President Ganesh Thapa forced the pressurised the players to continue. However, Malla gave Nepal the lifeline, saving captain Umar’s spot kick in the 59th minute.

Completely ignoring half-a-dozen clear cut chances, Nepal assistant coach Mrigendra Mishra blamed the poor refereeing for the reason behind their defeat. "We lost because of the referee," said Mishra.

Referee pokes Ju Manu with flag-stick

DHAKA: Assistant referee Nasser Alshatti of Kuwait almost invited an unpleasant incident when he poked hard the flag-stick to the Nepali forward Ju Manu Rai after their match against Maldives on Monday. The incident took just after match when Ju Manu approached the referee to shake hands. "He poked me hard with the flag-stick saying 'take this, it's for you', said Ju Manu. The stupid action of the referee incensed the whole Nepali camp prompting them to attack the referee. Many of the team members and officials including Ju Manu even attempted to physically assault the referee. But the local volunteers guided the referee safe away.