Biratnagar, March 12
Nepal began the Women’s SAFF Championship campaign with a 3-0 victory over Bhutan in the inaugural match here at the Shahid Rangashala grounds today.
Manjali Kumari Yonjan, Sabitra Bhandari and skipper Nitu Thapa scored a goal each for the home team who are looking for their maiden international trophy. Nepal had played in finals of the first three editions, losing to India thrice. In the fourth edition, Nepal failed to make it to the final after losing to India in the semi-finals.
But this time around, Nepal are looking for the trophy and have embarked on the campaign with a victory. Yonjan put Nepal ahead in the 14th minute when she found the back of the net with a right-footed shot from close range following a pass from Renuka Nagarkoti.
Bhandari doubled the lead in the 16th minute to score her 23rd goal in 24 matches. Bhandari, who is popularly known as Samba, dodged two defenders before firing past hapless Bhutan goalkeeper Sangita Monger.
Nepal created ample opportunities in the first half but failed to add more goals as players went to the break with a comfortable 2-0 lead.
Cheered by the home crowd, Nepal put Bhutan under pressure throughout the match and home team defenders did not let the opponents penetrate in their area. Nepal goalkeeper Anjila Tumbapo Subba was hardly troubled during the match.
The home side kept on attacking Bhutan post at regular intervals and skipper Thapa got on the scoresheet with her team’s third goal in the 54th minute. Cut inside by Bhandari with a header, Thapa had the simplest of jobs to put the ball into the net from the crowded penalty box. Nepal next play Bangladesh.
A total of six teams are taking part in the tournament. Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh are in Group A, while India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives are in Group B. The top two teams from both groups will make it to the semi-finals.
On Wednesday, four-time champion India will play the Maldives.
A version of this article appears in print on March 13, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.