Nepal’s Sabitra Bhandari in action against Bhutan during the Fourth Women’s SAFF Championship at Kanchenjunga Stadium in Siliguri, India on Monday. Photo Courtesy: Anfa
KATHMANDU, Dec 27: Sabitra Bhandari starred for Nepal in the Fourth Women’s SAFF Championship as it made a flying start with a thumping 8-0 win over Bhutan on Monday.
In the opening match of the championship played at Kanchenjunga Stadium, Siliguri, Sabitra achieved a rare feat of double hat-trick while Sharmila Thapa and Krishna Khatri netted the remaining two goals for Nepal.
In doing so, the 20-year old Sabitra also became the first Nepali player to score highest six goals in a single international match. She also took her international goals tally to 10. Earlier, Jamuna Gurung and Anu Lama held the record of highest goal in singe match with four goals each in their names.
Nepal’s Head Coach Kumar Thapa was delighted over his team’s big-margin win. The last time the two sides met was during the third edition of the championship which saw Nepal overcame Bhutan by identical score.
“The scoreline is very convincing and I am happy. Bhutan is not a bad team but things did not go their way today. Our forward line was good and we got a deserving result,” said Thapa.
Nepal took an early lead in the match with Armed Police Force (APF) striker Sabitra Bhandari scoring in the fifth minute. Sabitra extended Nepal’s lead to 2-0 scoring her personal second goal of the match four minutes later. Sabitra completed her hat-trick in the 23rd minute scoring another goal to make it 3-0. Then Sabitra assisted Sharmila Thapa two minutes later to widen Nepal’s lead to 4-0. Sabitra notched her personal fourth goal flicking a header in the 35th minute.
To complete the double hat-trick, Sabitra then produced two goals in the 72nd and 77th minutes. Second half substitute Krishna Khatri became the fourth Nepali player to score as the striker netted her eighth goal of her team in the 90th minute.
Head coach Thapa who is leading the Nepali team for the first time in an official tournament said the win over Bhutan will be a great boost for the upcoming matches. He also said that the win is even more meaningful as he got an opportunity to know the position of his squad.
“This was more of a testing match for us and we got to check the ground reality well. We used three substitutes and all of them worked as per my plan,” Thapa added.
Nepal, which has reached the final in all of the last three editions of Women’s SAFF Championship, has never lost to any nation in the competition except India. Nepal, which has lost all the finals it played against India in the last three editions, had left for Siliguri with its eyes set on winning its first sub-continental trophy.
However, head coach Thapa is not yet thinking about the potential final clash against India. “We are just in the group stage now and we just played our first match. For now, we are solely focused on the Maldives and then it will be Sri Lanka. The rest depends upon what are the outcomes,” said Thapa.
Meanwhile, Bhutan’s head coach Lee wasn’t surprised with the result.
“Nepal is a strong team and there is a big gap between it and Bhutan in terms of quality,” said the South Korean coach.
Lee also said that he is building Bhutanese team for future so has included many young players and the big-margin loss against stronger team like Nepal can be taken as a lesson.
Nepal, which is pitted in Group A, will take on the Maldives in its second match on Wednesday.