KATHMANDU, Nov 14 : Nepal and the Philippines played a goalless draw in the AFC Asian Cup 2019 Qualifiers match at ANFA Complex in Lalitpur on Tuesday.
Both sides had chances to score but poor conversion forced them to share one point each in Group F encounter.
The Philippines would have confirmed its place in the final round of Asian Cup with a win over the home side. But now draw against Nepal means that Azkals will have to wait until the last round matches.
The Philippines have now nine points from four matches, and stays in the first position in the points table while Yemen and Tajikistan are in the second and third places with six points each.
Nepal, which is already out of the qualification contention, has two points and stays at the bottom of the group.
Yemen and Tajikistan will compete against one another at Hisor Central Stadium on Tuesday evening. Winner of the match could put a pressure on the Philippines.
In the last round matches of the group, the Philippines will face Tajikistan while Nepal will travel to take on Yemen in March next year.
The top two teams will secure their berths in the Asian Cup to be held in United Arab Emirates (UAE) from January 5 to February 1, 2019.
Nepal had suffered 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Philippines in the first leg encounter in Manila eight months ago. But on home ground, Nepal played comparatively well and stopped the Philippines from scoring.
The first 15 minutes were dull as both teams struggled to hold the ball and build the attack. The first attempt came from the home team in the 17th minute as striker Bharat Khawash had a chance to shoot from close range but he could not direct the ball into the Philippine post.
The Philippines missed a big chance to score an opener in the 21st minute when Carlos De Murga’s header sailed over the bar.
The visitors had another opportunity to break the deadlock in the 35th minute with Simeone Reta attempting power shot from the 18-yard box, but Nepali goalie Kiran Kumar Limbu was alert and made block. Then Philippine skipper Philip James Younghusband collected the rebound ball but his shot went over the bar.
The Philippines’ head coach Thomas Dooley had played three central halves at back but changed the strategy in the second half and used 4-4-2 formation.
However, the change in the system still did not pay for the Philippines as the Nepali defense was not error prone, unlike in the earlier matches.
Nepali defender Ananta Tamang who had given away two penalties in the match against Tajikistan last month, displayed strong defensive performance. Central half Tamang disposed the Philippines’ Mike Ott in the penalty area in the 65th minute when the striker was about to charge the ball.
Ten minutes earlier, Anjan Bista had chance to put Nepal ahead when he disposed the Philippines’ goalkeeper Neil Leonard Etheridge in the danger zone but failed to utilize the chance as his back-heel went wide.
Nepal survived for the second time in the match as Bishal Rai made goal-line clearance in the 84th minute. Sato Daisuke’s powerful header ball was cleared by Rai which kept the match alive for Nepal.
Goalkeeper Kiran Kumar Limbu was taken off in the 76th minute due to injury before getting replaced by Bikesh Kuthu.
Skipper Anil Gurung played last ten minutes in his last match for the national team. With his 50th cap, striker Gurung has retired from international football.
After the match, Nepal’s head coach Gyotoku Koji said that his strategy of playing possession-based football was a success. “I had told my players to focus on ball possession which they did. Although we couldn’t seal the win, I am satisfied with the point we snatched,” said Koji.
The Philippines’ head coach Thomas Dooley praised Nepal’s performance. “Nepali players played well today, they always give strong performance in front of home fans,” said Dooley: “Win against Nepal would have put us in the final round, but now we must wait until the last round match.”