Kathmandu, September 6
Sunil Bal scored one and set two others as Nepal thrashed Bhutan 4-0 in the second group stage match of SAFF Championship to keep their semi-finals hopes alive in Dhaka today.
Nepal, who faced a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Pakistan in the opening match on Tuesday, opened the scoring in the 21st minute and added three goals in the second half to complete the comprehensive victory against Bhutan, who were reduced to 10 men in the 69th minute.
In another match, hosts Bangladesh registered a 1-0 victory over Pakistan and advanced to the semi-finals with six points. Nepal are second with three points and are ahead of Pakistan on superior goal difference. With two straight defeats, Bhutan crashed out of the semi-finals race.
Nepal will face hosts Bangladesh in their last group stage match on Saturday, while Pakistan take on Bhutan.
Ananta Tamang put Nepal ahead in the 21st minute with a spectacular goal following a corner from Bal.
The goal was Tamang’s second for the national team. Bhutan were reduced to 10 men in the 69th minute when Nima Wangdi got marching orders for his second yellow card after he brought down Nirajan Khadka inside the danger zone earning Nepal a penalty.
Bal scored his first international goal in third appearance when he doubled the tally in rebound after Bhutan goalkeeper Tshering Dendup blocked Bimal Gharti Magar’s initial attempt. Nepal made it 3-0 in the 79th minute through Bharat Khawas, who had replaced Anjan Bista three minutes earlier. Khawas collected the ball at the centre and showcased his skills to find the back of the nets in his solo effort for his 10th international goal.
Nirajan Khadka, who replaced Bishal Rai in the 63rd minute, completed the scoring two minutes before the time following a pass from Bal. Khadka, who made the comeback in the national team after 2013, scored his first international goal.
Nepal national team acting head coach Bal Gopal Maharjan lauded the team’s performance in a must win situation. “We lost the first match (against Pakistan) because of our own mistakes. We corrected them in today’s game and the result came in our favour,” said Maharjan.
“We changed our strategy and it worked in the second half as our team played with confidence. We need to show the character in the last match against Bangladesh and we can beat them at their home to make it to the semi-finals,” added Maharjan.
A version of this article appears in print on September 07, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.