DHAKA, Bangladesh, Dec 9: Nepal´s hope of entering into the semifinals of the ongoing SAFF Championship shattered on Wednesday following the defeat of four times champions India 2-0 at the hands of defending champions the Maldives.
With the win the Maldives advanced into the last four as the winners of group ´A´ while India, already qualified for semifinals, had to remain content as the runners-up of the group.
Despite a respectable win over Afghanistan Nepal crashed out from the group round for the fourth consecutive time. Afghanistan were bound to return home pointless.
Nepal extended their hope of entering into the semifinals for three more hours after the Pokhareli duo of Anil Gurung and Bijay Gurung helped Nepal beat Afghanistan 3-0 on Wednesday.
Anil, who was unable to put up a good show in the previous match, scored a brace while Bijay netted another. Anil, I-league forward of Shilong Lajong, scored a brace and Bijay netted the other to give new life to Nepali team´s effort to make it through to the semis. Anil had scored a goal against Pakistan last year in a friendly match in Pokhara and Bijay scored his second international goal. He scored his first goal against Bhutan in the fourth.
Nepal had to wait until the second-half to break the deadlock as the first-half of the match remained goalless. He scored in the 56th minute from the box utilizing a cross pass from Chetan Ghimire while Bijay added another ten minutes later. Bijay netted utilizing a ball that was missed by Jumanu Rai. Nepal needed only a goal to advance into the next round had India defeated the Maldives.
Anil scored his second and Nepal´s third goal of the match in the 72nd minute again capitalizing a cross pass of Chetan and beating an opponent defender. He sent the ball past the net in the second bar.
In all three matches of this edition of SAFF Nepal displayed good performance in the second halves only. Nepal leveled the match against Maldives in the second half after conceding a goal during the same half. Likewise, Nepal conceded a goal against India in the first half and were unable to make a comeback. Likewise, all three goals were possible against Afghanistan in the second half only.
In all the matches, Nepal´s performance remained forgettable in the first halves. In the first half against Afghanistan too Nepal´s performance remained dismal. Afghanistan nearly scored in the 10th minute of the match. The players lacked coordination in the first half. Jumanu missed another chance of scoring in the 70th minute. He had squandered another golden chance in the first half too.
Whatever may be the results, Nepal coach Krishna Thapa expressed satisfaction at the team´s performance. “We played well in the entire tournament. Jumanu´s goal was given offside against Maldives, which was unfortunate for the team,” Thapa said adding, “The loss against India too was our bad luck. We failed to utilize good opportunities. We were eager to come up with the same result as that of today in all our matches.
“Our team was unable to play for the whole 90 minutes in the beginning but the boys were given hard physical training this time. Therefore, we were able to play 90 minutes. We have displayed better performance in the second half and this could prove our level of fitness.”
Afghani coach Yousuf Kargar said that the team made defensive errors after Nepal came up with offensive game. “Our defense lineup was not well,” he said. “We aimed to gain experience from this match,” he added.
In the second match, Maldives netted one goal each in both halves against Indian team limited to 10 men during the last moment of the match. Ahmad Tarik opened the scoring in the 16th minute and Fajil Ibrahim netted another seven minutes before the final whistle. India were limited to 10 men in the 60th minute after Balwant Singh was slapped with a second yellow card.
India which had already booked a place for the semis played only for formality rather than for win. Indian coach Sukhbinder Singh had given rest to seven of his first choice players.
Maldives will take on Sri Lanka in the first semifinal while India will play against hosts Bangladesh in another match.