POKHARA, March 19: Nepal came up with an improved performance on Saturday in their 2-1 win over Bhutan during the second friendly match to wrap up the two-match series 2-0 at the Pokhara Stadium. In the first match, the home team had defeated the Druks 1-0 on Thursday.
Defender Bikash Singh Chhetri scored the first international goal and forward Anil Gurung netted another for the home team in either half for the victory. The goal against Bhutan was Gurung’s fifth international goal. Chencho hit the consolation for visitors in the first minute of stoppage time.
With the win, Nepal have also continued their cent percent winning streak against the Druks registering 10 victories in as much matches played.
Chhetri brought in the starting lineup on Saturday headed home the opener in the 24th minute. Skipper Sagar Thapa flicked the corner from Raju Tamang and Chhetri utilized it to score.
Gurung doubled the tally in the second half with 15 minutes to go in regulation time. He scored through a close range strike when he met a rebounded ball as Bhutan goalie Hari Gurung blocked Bharat Khawas strike. Khawas had made an appearance in the second half as a replacement for Jagjit Shrestha, who made his debut for the national side.
Chencho made a quick attempt from a close range in a pass supplied by Nawang Dendup for the team’s only goal.
The other debutant for the Nepali national team on Saturday were Sujal Shrestha and Nirajan Malla.
As said by the coach Graham Roberts on Friday, Nepal made improvements in every department -- ball possessions, attacking and multiple passes as well as gave chances to all 22 among 23 members of the squad in the two series.
Coach Roberts had made numerous changes in the starting lineup and had come up with new team formation of 3-5-2 (three defenders, five midfielders and two forwards). Skipper Thapa, Rohit Chand and Bikash Singh Chhetri completed the defense line-up while Anil Gurung and Jumanu Rai were the forwards. Rabin Shrestha, Sandip Rai, Biraj Maharjan, Raju Tamang and Jagjit Shrestha were in midfield in the starting line-up.
“I have made changes in system (formation) and that worked very well. The boys put up a fantastic show and overall every player fulfilled their duty well,” Roberts said adding, “There were a lot of moves and multiple passes. However, the boys still need a lot of concentration and must try to score more goals.”
Santosh Sahukhala was the well-known face who was not fielded in the second match and golvesman Bikash Malla was the only player who was not seen on the ground in the two-match series. Malla could not make an appearance due to groin injury.
Earlier, Nepal controlled the match from the beginning and piled up consistent pressure until the end. They made about a dozen post attacks unlike Bhutan who could make only two shots on target. However, Bhutan goalie Gurung made a couple of heroic saves to prevent the home team from scoring more goals.
During the first half, Anil Gurung squandered two scoring chances. Likewise, Sandeep Rai’s header in Jagjit Shrestha’s corner was cleared by the Druks´ captain Kinley Dorji from the goalline.
Bhutan are in Nepal to play friendly matches as part of their preparation for the Challenge Cup playoff matches against Afghanistan scheduled to be held on March 23 and 25 in New Delhi, India.
The winner of the playoff will qualify for the group D qualifiers of the cup to be held in Kathmandu from April 7 to 11. Other teams in the group are the hosts Nepal, Sri Lanka and North Korea.