Beat Bangladesh 2-1 in final to bag first title at home in 37 years
KATHMANDU, MARCH 29
Nepal lifted their first title on home soil in 37 years after the national football team beat Bangladesh 2-1 in the final of the Three Nations Cup here at the Dasharath Stadium today.
Sanjog Rai and Bishal Rai scored one goal each in first half for the home side, while substitute forward Mahabubur Rahman replied for the visitors in the second half. Nepal had last won the international trophy on home soil in the first South Asian Federation Games in 1984.
Nepal defended the South Asian Games title on home soil in December 2019 but the tournament has been revised as U-23 competition with the option of fielding a maximum of three senior players since 2004. Nepal national team had last won two trophies six years ago - the Bangabandhu Gold Cup in Bangladesh and AFC Solidarity Cup in Malaysia in 2016. This is the third time Nepal beat Bangladesh in final after the gold medal run in the first and eighth SAF Games.
Nepal, who had made it to the final without netting a single goal in the two league-round matches, opened the scoring through Sanjog Rai in the 18th minute when he slotted home a powerful shot from the edge of the box in rebound after Sunil Bal's corner was blocked by Bangladesh defense line.
The goal ended Nepal's seven-match drought and that came after 675 minutes of play excluding added-on times. Nepal had not been able to find the back of the nets in the last seven matches since Anjan Bista scored a brace in their 2-0 victory over Chinese Taipei in joint qualifier of the FIFA World Cup and AFC Asian Cup in Chinese Taipei in September 2019.
The goal was also first by a Nepal national team player at the Dasharath Stadium in nine years after Jumanu Rai found the back of the nets against India in the 2013 SAFF Championship. And Sanjog Rai, who made the national team debut on Saturday in the league round match against Bangladesh, deservedly got the credit from his teammates who gathered near the Bangladeshi corner flag bringing the home crowd to its feet.
Bishal Rai doubled the tally in the 42nd minute with his fourth international goal. Bishal beat Bangladeshi goalkeeper Anisur Rahman in one-on-one situation after he was fed by a gentle touch from Ranjit Dhimal, who got the ball from Sanjog Rai. Sanjog was later named the man of the match. Bangladeshi substitute Mahbubur Rahman reduced the deficit in 83rd minute when he headed home following a corner.
Apart from the two goals, the home side created a couple of other scoring chances. The home team made the first attempt in the 13th minute but Tridev Gurung could not control the ball on a pass from Sunil Bal. Ananta Tamang came close to opening the account four minutes but he saw his header brilliantly punched out by Bangladesh goalkeeper Anisur Rahman.
Anjan Bista was unlucky in the 30th minute when he lobbed over goalkeeper Rahman in oneon-one situation but the ball sailed over the bar. At the other end, Nepal custodian Kiran Limbu made a finger-tip save to deny Yasir Arafat's powerful curling shot from 20 yards. Nepal's Rohit Chand was adjudged the Most Valuable Player of the tournament.
Nepal coach Bal Gopal Maharjan sent Biraj Maharjan for one last time in the 89th minute and Rohit Chand offered him the captain's arm band on the touch line to the retiring former skipper
after taking it from goalkeeper Kiran Limbu. Maharjan played the last match of his illustrating career before receiving the blazer from Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, who was the chief guest of the closing ceremony.
Kyrgyzstan Olympic Team was the third team in the tournament and they were eliminated with one point in the league round.
Nepal coach Balgopal Maharjan said his tactics worked in the match. "We had made a couple of changes tactically and we were success in our plan," said. Maharjan, who guided Nepal to Bangabandhu Gold Cup title in 2016 and SA Games gold medal in 2019. "Bangladesh played with many forwards (six in starting line-up) and their defense line could not mark our strikers, which was an added advantage for us," he added.
Skipper Kiran Limbu lauded his team members' performance in the game. "It was not an easy match but we played with fighting spirit and the boys did extremely well today," he said. "The cheers from home crowd also made the difference in our performance," added Limbu, who was recently named the best goalkeeper of Indian League.
A version of this article appears in the print on March 30, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.