Nepal record first win in the joint World Cup and Asian Cup QualifiersIt was the maiden away victory that Nepal had recorded in the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers till date.
A brace from Anjan Bista steered Nepal to a 2-0 victory over hosts Taiwan for the first win in their joint FIFA World Cup and AFC Asian Cup Group 'B' qualifying match at the Taipei Municipal Stadium in Taipei on Tuesday.
Bista, who was included in the starting lineup after playing only for a few minutes as a substitute against Kuwait on September 5, netted either side of the break to provide Nepal three valuable three points. Bista opened the scoring in the third minute and added the second in the 85th minute. The goals were his first in the national jersey after making debut for Nepal against Philippines friendly in October 2014. He appeared as a late substitute in Nepal's 7-0 defeat away to Kuwait. It was his 29 caps for the national team.
Both teams went into the match looking for their first point as Taiwan had also lost 2-1 against Jordan at their first home match. The victory came as a big relief for Nepal's Swedish coach Johan Kalin. It was Kalin's first win since taking over reins of Nepali national team on March 1. He had gone winless for six matches including four international friendlies as well as against Malaysian club Johor Darul Ta'zim FC and the lost one against Kuwait last week.
It was Nepal's first victory over Taiwan in only the second encounter. The only previous clash between the two teams was an international friendly, which had ended in a 1-1 draw on June 6. It was also the first away victory for Nepal in the World Cup Qualifier for Nepal.
Nepal's started the match with three changes from the Kuwait match. Along with Bista, defenders Ranjit Dhimal and Dinesh Rajbanshi were included in the starting lineup. Defenders Suman Aryal, Ajit Bhandari and midfielder Bikram Lama were dropped. Bhandari did not travel with the team after sustaining leg injury in the last match.
Playing with a lone forward in Bimal Gharti Magar, Nepal made a breakthrough in the third minute. Bista capitalised on a freekick from Sujal Shrestha to give Nepal the lead. The hosts, who are placed 41 spots higher than Nepal in the FIFA rankings [166th], dominated the ball possession and kept on piling pressure but failed to break the stubborn defence.
Nepal settled their nerves in the 85th minute when Bista doubled their advantage, scoring in a counter-attack. Shrestha was again the architect of the second goal as he headed in to set up Ravi Paswan's long cross for Bista to score. The midfielder controlled the ball and slammed a powerful shot to stun Taiwan goalkeeper Pan Wen-Cheh.
"It is always nice to get a win and I feel good with the results," said Kalin. "We had tough experience with Kuwait a few days earlier after which we need to step up a bit. The boys put on a very good performance today. A good performance led us to secure all three points," said Kalin. Asked if it was his strategy to score on set-piece situations Kalin said: "No, but we wanted to use set pieces and all other opportunities. I had been saying that we are in a rebuilding process and this victory is just a step forward to that direction."
The group also includes Australia and Jordan. Nepal will visit Australia on October 10 and Jordan on October 15. The double round-robin Qualifiers will be played on home and away format. Altogether 40 teams of Asia are divided into eight groups of five teams each. The eight group winners and four best runners-up will secure places to the AFC Asian Cup 2023 Finals in China as well as the final round of qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The remaining 24, except for the four bottom-placed teams, who fail to pass the joint Qualifiers hurdle will have another shot at earning tickets to the AFC Asian Cup. The 24 teams will fight it out for another 12 berths for the Asian Cup.