Nepal suffer 5-0 drubbing down under, defensive tactic failed to pay offContrasting physical attributes and lapse in coordination to blame as Maclaren hat-trick sinks Gorkhalis in Joint Qualifiers.
The outcome of the match between Nepal and hosts Australia was there for everyone to take from the moment the draw was fixed. Considering the gulf between the team who aspire to make it to the FIFA World Cup Finals and the ones who struggle even in the South Asian region, it was always a matter of damage control for Nepal.
As it turned out, Nepal lost their joint 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup Qualifiers Group ‘B’ match 5-0 against the home team at the GIO Stadium here on Thursday. It was the second defeat for Nepal in three second-round qualifying matches having suffered a demoralising 7-0 defeat against Kuwait and a morale-boosting 2-0 win over Taiwan.
Jamie Maclaren scored a hat-trick and Harry Souttar converted a brace to complete a dominating victory over the visitors.
Nervous Nepal got a huge reprieve when goalkeeper Kiran Chemjong made a mess of a simple Rajit Dhimal’s back pass. The Nepal skipper’s attempted clearance almost rebound into the goal but for timely intervention at the goalmouth. The Socceroos, however, didn’t have to wait longer as the hosts took the lead five minutes later. Aaron Mooy’s shot from the edge of the box rebounded off Chemjong for Jamie Maclaren to tap in from close.
Australian dominance paid off once again in the 19th minute when a perfectly weighed in left-wing cross from Aziz Behich at the far side was headed across the goal by Rhyan Bert Grant for a simple finish from Jamie Maclaren.
The Socceroos made their superior physical advantage count, scoring on a set-piece. Harry Souttar headed in on a corner from Craig Goodwin in the 23rd minute to make it 3-0. Nepal custodian Chemjong made a string of saves to keep the scoreline much lower by the half-hour mark.
Chemjong yet again denied Australia another goal as the Nepali custodian blocked a free header from Craig Goodwin following a Mooy’s right-wing cross at far side in the 55th minute. The home team extended their lead to 4-0 when Mooy delivered a ball into the area for Souttar to head into the goal but the ball hit defender Dinesh Rajbanshi and entered the nets.
Maclaren scored from close following a well-crafted game from 30 yards out to make it 5-0 for the Socceroos.
Nepal head coach Johan Kalin preferred Abhishek Rijal in the starting lineup while Bimal Garti Magar was benched until the 66th minute. Nepal Army marksman Nawayug warmed up the bench the entire game attended by 18,563 spectators.
Most of the Socceroos’ players that hammered Kuwait 3-0 in Kuwait City had been retained for the clash against Nepal. Defender Trent Sainsbury missed out due to a minor injury but the experienced Bristol City defender Bailey Wright returned to Graham Arnold’s squad. Of the entire roster, only three footballers play in domestic league while the rest ply their trades abroad.
Skipper Mark Milligan, who was left out for team’s September fixture due to leg injury, also returned to bolster their squad.
Speaking after the match, Nepal head coach Johan Kalin said, "The first 25 minutes were very tough for us. The first goal was very unfortunate for us. However, we made some progress in the second half. Australia are way better than us and are a physically strong side in comparison to Nepal. We played our level best and will improve in days ahead."
Australia coach Graham Arnold expressed his happiness at his side’s biggest home win in three years and said, "We created a lot of chances, but we got a bit more ruthless when it counts."
Nepal now board to Jordan for the next match scheduled for October 15. The Qualifier is played on home and away format. In all, 40 Asian teams are divided into eight groups of five. The eight group winners and four best runners-up will make it 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.