Nepal top India to set up Bangladesh finalThe final will be without India for the first time in SAFF Women’s Championship’s 12-year long history.
Forward Rashmi Kumari Ghising struck the lone goal as Nepal defeated defending champions India 1-0 for the first time in SAFF Women’s Championship history on Friday to set up the title clash against Bangladesh.
Ghising scored moments before the first half at the Dasharath Stadium to give the hosts their first win over India in six attempts at the SAFF. It was also Nepal’s second win over India in 14 encounters, the last one in February 2019 during Gold Cup in Bhubaneswar.
The outcome means the final will be without India for the first time in the SAFF Women’s Championship’s 12-year long history. They were the winners of all previous five editions. They had defeated Nepal in four finals and Bangladesh in the 2016 final in Siliguri, India.
India’s first ever SAFF defeat came against Bangladesh in the group stage on Tuesday.
India had edged Nepal in the semi-finals in Siliguri in 2016. The victory also turned out to be a sweet revenge for coach Kumar Thapa who was in charge of the team back then.
“It feels amazing to win,” said Preeti Rai after the match who assisted for the goal and was named the most valuable player. “We had lost to them in the semi-final in 2016 and we did not want it to happen again. The coach has also briefed us about that. I tried to give my best in the match and credit for the success goes to all of my teammates and coaches.”
Played in the wet ground under light rainfall, Nepal were without their prolific forward Sabitra Bhandari—who is recovering from dengue—but piled pressure on India and kept their defenders busy throughout the match. India created a couple of opportunities but they lacked the cutting edge.
“We had been waiting for this day for a long time and finally got it after 12 years,” said Thapa. “It is all because of the commitment and hard effort of players.”
He also said that his side were under pressure since they were playing without their all-time highest scorer Bhandari. “The surface was also slippery due to rainfall, and there was also pressure playing without Bhandari. But we played as a team and were successful in utilising the one chance among very few we got.”
It was India who threatened in the 24th minute but Dangmei Grace shot over the bar in Anju Tamang’s cross. Rai responded for Nepal in the 33rd but ended up firing inches wide after she was fed by winger Anita KC.
Moments later Nepal wasted a golden opportunity as they failed to pounce on a defensive effort from India. India custodian Aditi Chauhan could not read Ranjana Chanu’s back pass but the shot stopper reacted quickly and cleared the ball.
Backed by a roaring home crowd, Ghising finally broke the deadlock in the first half stoppage time. The forward controlled a pass from Preeti Rai inside the box, took a sharp turn and brilliantly unleashed the ball past the Indian goalie into the net.
Five minutes into the second half, defender Amrita Jaisi’s header in Anita KC corner was punched to safety by goalie Chauhan. Rai came closer to extending the lead in the 64th when she dribbled past two defenders but ended up firing inches wide from the area.
Thapa pointed out that India were a weaker side this edition. “They did not have a few key players and had a short preparation time as they were also under FIFA’s ban a few weeks ago,” he said.
India coach Suren Kumar Chhetri lamented that this side failed to utilise their scoring opportunities.
In the early kickoff, a hat-trick from captain Sabin Khatun inspired Bangladesh to an 8-0 victory over Bhutan at the same venue.
Bangladesh scored four goals each in either half but it was captain Khatun who shone with her second hat-trick of the tournament that took her tally to the highest eight goals. She also scored three times in Bangladesh’s 6-0 drubbing of Pakistan in the group stage.
The one-sided affair saw Bangladesh dominate in all departments and score at regular intervals.They took the lead as early as the second minute through MS Jahan Shopna. Khatun doubled the advantage in the 18th, before Srimoti Krishnarani Sarkar struck the third for Bangladesh at the stroke of half-hour. They went into the interval with a 4-0 lead through Ritu Porna Chakma, who replaced Shopna in the 16th after she suffered a groin injury, in the 35th.
Khatun added her individual second goal eight minutes into the restart before Masura Parvin made it 6-0 for Bangladesh in the 56th. Tohura Khatun added another in the 87th and captain Khatun completed her hat-trick to seal the comprehensive 8-0 victory in stoppage time. The all-time highest scorer of Bangladesh also extended her international goal tally to 32.
Congratulating his players after the win, Bangladesh coach Golam Robbani Choton said that his side played with similar determination in all four matches en-route to the final.
“They played with the same level of determination and spirit in all three group games and the semis. They executed the match plan. We are ready to face our final opponents,” said Choton, who has been in charge of the Bangladeshi side for more than a decade.