Players of Bhutan celebrate after defeating Nepal during their SAFF U-18 Championship Group B football match at the Halchowk Stadium in Kathmandu on Sunday. Photo Courtesy: ANFA
KATHMANDU, Sept 23:Defending champion Nepal’s chance of advancing to the semifinals of the U-18 SAFF Championship has suffered a blow following a 3-0 loss to Bhutan on Sunday.
Bhutan opened the scoring in the 37th minute with a goal from Yeshi Dorji at the Halchowk Stadium. Dorji took a chance at the goal from a cross but was blocked by Nepal goalkeeper Bishal Sunar. He then utilized the rebound to give Bhutan a first half lead.
Despite maintaining possession throughout the first half, Nepal failed to convert any chances due to poor finishing.
Nepal showed an improved performance in the second half but it was Bhutan who showed a balanced football despite the wet ground condition following a brief rain before switching to aggressive style of play to double the lead from the spot kick in the 86th minute.
The referee pointed toward the spot without any hesitation after Bishal Basnet fouled substitute Kelzang Jigmi in the penalty box and Jigmi made no mistake to make the score 2-0.
The match ended 3-0 as goalkeeper Sunar could not stop a shot from Karma Sonam in the 90th minute.
Despite losing to Bhutan 1-0 in the earlier edition, Nepal had advanced to the semifinal to become eventual champion edging India 2-0 in the final. Nepal had defeated Bhutan in the 2015 SAFF 3-1.
Following the loss, Nepal’s, also 2015 SAFF champion, qualification to semis will depend on the final group match between Bhutan and the Maldives. The Maldivians are square on point with Nepal after they played a 1-1 draw in the opening match.
Nepal has 1 point from two matches but is inferior on goal difference with the Maldives. However, if only Bhutan beats the Maldives by four or more goals on Tuesday, Nepal will go through as Group A runner-up.
With three points, Bhutan has already advanced to the semifinals.
Nepal head coach Chet Narayan Shrestha was not happy with the players’ performance.
“The wet ground made the game difficult to play. Even though we had planned to play attacking game, the team’s defense was not good,” said Shrestha.
“We made substitutions in the second half to improve the poor finishing. Yet, our weakness prevailed,” he added.
Bhutan head coach Ugyen Dorji said his side’s balanced play made the win possible.
“All the players played well from the first whistle. They played according to the tactics,” said Dorji. “Our aim was to win the game…and we won.”
“We will give our 100 percent against the Maldives as well to finish the group stage unbeaten.”
In Group B, India will open its campaign against Bangladesh on Monday. Bangladesh has already strengthened its chances of reaching the semifinals with three points after defeating Sri Lanka 3-0 on Saturday.
Sri Lanka is at the bottom of group with no points, and will face India on Wednesday.