Nepal, India settle for draw

Published On: September 23, 2017 02:46 AM NPT

KATHMADNU, Sept 23: Nepal and India played an entertaining 2-2 draw in the Group D match of AFC U-16 Championship 2018 Qualifiers at Halchowk Stadium, Kathmandu, on Friday. 

The match which was heading toward a goalless draw saw the four goals in the last 15 minutes. Brijesh Chaudhary scored a brace for the home team while both the goals for India were scored by Harpeet Singh.
Draw means, India is in the second place with four points from two matches while Nepal is in the third position with one point from equal number of the matches.
Earlier in the first match of the day, Iraq overcame Palestine 4-0 in its second group match and tightened its luck on the first place. Iraqi team which had defeated Nepal 1-0 in the first match has now six points and has increased its chances of qualification to the final round as group topper. 

On the final day of the qualifiers on Sunday, Nepal will face Palestine while India and Iraq will compete in the remaining fixture. India will need a win while a draw will be enough for Iraq to progress to the age group Asian Championship to be held in Malaysia next year. 
A total of 10 group winners will secure their berths in the final rounds while the five best runners-up will join them. Nepal's slim hope of qualification as best runner-up will remain alive if it manages to register a big margin win over the Palestine and India suffer defeat at the hands of Iraq.
After the thrilling draw, Nepali Head Coach Sunil Kumar Shrestha said that his team's chance of qualifying for the Championship now hangs in the balance. "Now it is going to be hard. Had we won today's match, there would be still a chance but now it all depends on the result of the match between India and Iraq," said Shrestha.
Brijesh Chaudhary scoring a stunning goal in the 76th minute put Nepal in the driving seat. Fullback Deepak Bhandara dispossessed Indian defender Gurkirat Singh and passed it to Saugat Khawas who then created for central forward Chaudhary to score a beautiful left-footed goal. 
However Nepal's happiness didn't last long as second-half substitute Harpreet scored a sensational 35-yard goal for India to make it 1-1. Two minutes later, India made 2-1 with Harpeet founding the net for the second time in the match. However the drama didn't end there, Nepal found the equalizer two minutes from normal time. It was Chaudhary once again, who scored another stunning goal for the host, utilizing a flicked pass from fellow striker Akash Budha Magar.
Nepal's Head Coach Shrestha said his goalkeeper and defenders couldn't play according to the instructions. "We had told the defenders to hold the ball and not to make quick back passes that could put the team in danger. But they couldn't play as per the instructions. The goalkeeper also was out of position when we conceded the first goal," added Shrestha. 

Meanwhile Indian Head Coach Bibiano Fernandes praised Nepal's performance. "We knew that Nepal wouldn't allow us to acquire full three points easily. They scored two world class goals and stopped us from winning the match," said Head Coach Fernandes. 
However he was still hopeful of qualifying to the final round. "We are still hopeful and determined to make it to the final round. We will play for three points against Iraq," added Fernandes. 

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