Wasteful Nepal display enthused performance, yet suffer 3-0 loss in AmmanIn nothing like the 9-0 demolition eight years back, improved Nepal will blame their luck.
Scorelines may often fail to translate the clear picture of match proceedings in football. In one of such rare occasions for Nepal in recent times on Tuesday, three second-half goals from Jordan meant Nepal suffered their third defeat in fourth away match of the group stage under the World Cup and Asian Cup Joint Qualification tournament, but their performance exceeded expectations.
A much-improved display from Nepal in the first half of the match played at Amman International Stadium where they simply could not afford any mediocrity left their ardent supporters expecting more in terms of performance, a result in their favour. However, following a brief hiatus since the 5-0 crushing defeat against Australia, Nepal's nemesis, their defensive lapses came back to haunt them in the second 45 minutes of what otherwise was developing to become a shock result for the hosts, as even a draw at the home ground pinches to the core of the heart.
Jordan indeed were the favourites heading into the clash and that explains their stronghold of possession throughout the match. However, they would have rued the chances where they failed in getting past Nepali captain and goalkeeper Kiran Chemjong, the custodian making several saves in the first half to keep his side in the game. As Nepal were much better in limiting scoring opportunities for Jordan, they went on to avoid embarrassments akin to the 9-0 humiliation against the same opponents, at the same venue eight years ago during the 2014 World Cup Qualifiers. Nepal themselves had a couple of chances in the first half but Santosh Tamang failed in conversion.
Head coach Johan Kalin had made three changes to the squad after the Australia match as Bimal Gharti Magar, Tamang and Suman Aryal were accommodated in the starting eleven in places of Abhishek Rijal, Bishal Rai who has picked a calf-injury and Ranjit Dhimal.
Nepal simply could not sustain their defensive momentum and failed to capitalize on a few opportunities which meant the script of the second-half developed against their aspirations. Feras Shelbaieh converted a penalty for the hosts in the 56th minute after Dinesh Rajbanshi fouled his opponent winger Yaseen Mahmoud Bakheet inside the box, the spot-kick many observed to be soft and unfortunate for Nepal. Magar had a chance to bring the match on level terms a minute later but failed to convert. Nepal then conceded another unexpected goal in the form of a chip which left no chance for Chemjong as Ahmed Al-Ersan celebrated his name on the scoresheet after lobbing over the Nepali custodian. The move probably was meant to be a cross to his teammate. Nepal appeared to have lost their focus as their defenders were caught ball-watching when Baha' Faisal headed in to seal Jordan's 3-0 win with two minutes of regulation time to spare.
Speaking at the post-match press conference Nepal head coach Kalin said, "It was a good game, we tried our best. We were better in defense than in the previous matches, especially following the results against Kuwait and Australia. I think we could have had better chances in the match, but Jordan is a good team, they were playing at their home and made the best use of their chances."
A loyal football fan of Nepal, Kawish Bhakta Shrestha shared his observation, “It was a solid first-half display by Nepal. Our defence looked better and it was a much-improved performance after the last game against Australia. The team played with more confidence and Bimal Magar played well as the sole Striker.” On Nepal’s first goal, Shrestha says, “We were unlucky to have conceded the first goal which changed the game. The penalty was a very soft one and debatable. However, the defender was at fault for letting the winger cut back in easily. Nepal was forced to go on the offensive once the first goal was conceded and it seemed like we had not planned for that as we easily let in the other two goals.” Shrestha adds that Nepali fans are hopeful of the team getting positive results against these teams when the home fixtures return at Dashrath Stadium.
As coach Kalin had previously stated that Nepal, being the clear underdogs, had nothing to lose, their approach to the game did meet largely with positive reactions from fans, critics and analysts. Team Nepal must have gained more than lost in these tough away defeats against Kuwait, Australia and Jordan. As the qualifiers now take a break for a brief while, Nepal must be prepared to steal points or in their aspirations, aim to avenge some defeats but that requires unadulterated and unwavering support from all stakeholders.
The national sports governing body, the National Sports Council (NSC) must ensure timely and uncompromised completion of the only international stadium in the country, the Dashrath Stadium for the players and fans alike as captain Chemjong said that playing in front of the spirited home crowd who simply have football inscribed in their DNA serves ineffable magnitude of motivation for the players on the field.
The top team from each of the eight groups and four second-place finishers will move to the Asian 2023 finals and the third round of World Cup qualifiers.
Nepal’s home fixtures
Nepal vs Kuwait November 19, 2019
Nepal vs Taiwan March 26, 2020
Nepal vs Australia March 31, 2020
Nepal vs Jordan June 4, 2020