Nepal off to flying start in women’s SAFFForward Sabitra Bhandari and Anita Basnet score two goals each as Nepal see off Bhutan 4-0 in the opening match.
Star forward Sabitra Bhandari and winger Anita Basnet struck two goals each for Nepal as the hosts made a flying start thumping Bhutan 4-0 in the curtain raiser of the sixth SAFF Women’s Championship at the Dasharath Stadium, Tripureshwar, on Tuesday.
Nepal, bidding to win their first ever silverware, opened scoring in the 12th minute through Bhandari in the game hit by downpour. She netted her second in the 68th to extend her scoring tally to 40 goals. Basnet, named most valuable player of the game, struck in the 73rd and 85th to seal the comprehensive victory to take her international goals tally to six.
Nepal, who also strengthened their semi-final hopes from three-team Group ‘B’, will play their second and final group stage match against Sri Lanka on Monday.
The waterlogged ground made life difficult for both the sides in the first half but the ground condition turned comparatively better in the second half. Nepal, who started with 4-4-2 formation before switching to 4-3-3 in the second half, dominated the show from the onset as Bhutan barely threatened the home team.
“I am happy with the goal and the execution of the match plan,” said Nepal coach Kumar Thapa, whose side maintained their cent percent winning streak and clean sheet over the visitors, defeating them for the fourth time.
“We really enjoyed the second half as the rain hampered the game less than it did before the interval,” said Thapa, whose first stint with the team had finished after the semi-final exit during the fourth edition in 2016. “The girls played well despite the heavy and unfriendly playing surface. I am happy to have used all five substitutes.”
Nepal gave debut to forward Amisha Karki and midfielder Dipa Shahi in the starting line-up while the only other new face of the team, Samiksha Ghimire, came as second half replacement of Hira Kumari Bhujel.
Nepal came closer to scoring as early as in the 11th minute when defender Bhujel smashed on the upright at an open net from the area as Bhutan custodian Sangita Monger was yet to recover after slipping at the pitch.
But Nepal’s all time highest scorer Bhandari gave lead to Nepal a minute later applying a finishing strike at the open net as debutant Karki beat goalie Monger in one-on-one situation creating an easy opportunity for the forward.
“We should have scored more goals in the first half, but the rainfall made it difficult. We could not judge the ball properly,” said the winger, who recalled her struggle on the pitch last year. “I was not at my best last year and the match gave me an opportunity to prove myself today.”
Two minutes into the second half, midfielder Dipa Shahi ended up firing above the bar fed by Rekha Paudel. Bhandari wasted a golden scoring opportunity as she failed to connect an acute cross by Basnet exactly at the penalty spot.
Bhandari amended her mistake midway in the second half as forward collected a through pass from Rekha Paudel, the second half replacement of Karki, and sprinted before beating the goalie with her strike in one-on-one situation.
Winger Basnet made a sensational 25-yard strike in the 73rd to send the ball beyond the reach of Bhutan goalie Monger who made an unsuccessful attempt to punch it. Basnet hammered the final nail in the 85th with a quick strike as she found a ball parried by custodian Monger in her bid to deny Anita KC strike at the post.
There will be two matches of Group ‘A’ on Wednesday.
India vs Pakistan
Time: 13:00 NST
Bangladesh vs Maldives
Time: 17:30 NST
Venue: Dasharath Stadium