Nepal storm into semis as group winnersThe team thump Sri Lanka 6-0 in their second group match despite playing in the absence of star forward Bhandari.
Nepal thumped Sri Lanka 6-0 on Monday to enter semi-final of the sixth SAFF Women’s Championship as Group ‘B’ winners at the Dasharath Stadium in Tripureshwar, Kathmandu.
Substitute forward Amisha Karki struck two late goals in the second half for the home team, who went into the break with a comfortable 4-0 lead. Forward Rashmi Kumari Ghising, Saru Limbu, Amrita Jaisi and Dipa Shahi were on target in the first half.
With the second win in the three-team group, Nepal wrapped up the league rounds on six points, three ahead of runners up Bhutan, who had gone down 4-0 against Nepal in the curtain raiser on Tuesday. Bhutan, having beaten Sri Lanka 5-0, also progressed in the last four.
Nepal will meet the runners up of Group ‘A’—one among Bangladesh and India—in the semi-final scheduled for Friday. Bangladesh and India have also already made it to the semi-final from Group ‘A’ after two wins each but the group topper will be determined only after two sides vie in their last group match on Tuesday.
Nepal came into the match in the absence of their star forward Sabitra Bhandari and winger Manjali Kumari Yonjan, both of whom have been down with dengue fever. Making two changes in the starting line-up, coach Kumar KC deployed forward Rekha Paudel in place of Bhandari and replaced Rashmi Kumari Ghising instead of Amisha Karki.
Despite starting without all-time record scorer Bhandari, Nepal showed no signs of missing them. However, coach KC was not satisfied with his team’s performance. “We had a game plan and a system for the match, but it was not executed. We could face a tough time if we play in a similar way in the semi-final,” KC said. “We were in a hurry to score rather than playing in our system. I am not happy with that.”
He also lamented that his defense and goalkeeper could not be tested in the group stage matches. “They did not get such opportunities,” KC said.
Giving an update on Bhandari’s situation, KC said, “She did not have a fever today and doctors attending her said that she has a probability of returning in the semi-final. We don’t want to miss both the players. It is not good for us and spectators as well.”
Nepal netted first three goals in the space of eight minutes and all via headers. Forward Ghising put Nepal ahead as early as in the ninth minute as she headed home defender Hira Kumar Bhujel’s cross. They doubled the advantage two minutes later through midfielder Saru Limbu who headed a left flank cross by Punam Jargha Magar.
Defender Amrita Jaisi made it 3-0 in the 17th as she headed Anita Basnet corner from the crowded area. Nepal could have added yet another at the stroke of half an hour but forward Paudel and winger Basnet both failed to connect Ghising’s cross at an open net as Sri Lankan goalie RGI Yohani Weerasinghe was already beaten.
Sri Lanka’s only remarkable move at Nepal’s post came in the 42nd but forward KKM Nawanjana Perera ended up applying a feeble shot straight at Nepali goalie Anjali Tumbapo Subba’s grip with only the shot stopper on her way in a through pass from RMCK Ekanayaka.
Nepal struggled for a goal in the second half despite creating chances. Amisha Karki, who replaced Rekha Paudel in the 55th minute and marked her debut for the national fold against Bhutan, got on the scoresheet in the 74th. She chipped above goalie Weerasinghe from the area capitalising on a poor clearance by Sri Lankan defenders.
Karki sealed the victory in the third minute of stoppage time in her lone effort. She outpaced two Sri Lankan defenders and then coolly beat past goalie before slotting home at open net from a close range.
“We planned to play a defensive and organised game today, but we made a lot of mistakes,” said Sri Lanka coach Chaminda Neel Steinwall after the match.
Speaking at the post-match conference, Steinwall was full of praise for Nepal. “Nepal are very strong than us—they are technically and tactically strong,” he said. “They are also organised defensively and offensively. They played very well and I think they can reach the final.”
Maldives vs Pakistan 13:00 NST
India vs Bangladesh 17:30 NST
Venue: Dasharath Stadium