Bista’s record-equalling goal rescues NepalThe forward scores his 13th international goal to help Nepal salvage a 1-1 draw against Laos at the Dasharath Stadium.
Anjan Bista scored a record-equalling goal to help Nepal salvage a 1-1 draw against underdogs Laos in the first leg of the first round of the 2026 FIFA World Cup and 2027 AFC Asian Cup qualification at the Dasharath Stadium in Kathmandu on Thursday.
Bista equalised with a powerful header in the 49th minute to keep the double-legged tie balanced after Bounphachan Bounkong had given Laos the lead in the 33rd minute.
It was the 25-year-old Bista’s 13th international goal for Nepal and the forward is now level with Hari Khadka and Nirajan Rayamajhi as the all-time top goal scorers.
It is still a setback for Nepal’s second round hopes and the Italian head coach Vincenzo Alberto Annese, who will now be under pressure to deliver away at Vientiane on October 17.
Annese reshuffled the position of the starting line up, experimenting forward Ashish Chaudhary in the back line and fielding winger Manish Dangi in the central midfield to make space for towering Gillespye Jung Karki in the front three but it backfired.
Nepal lacked coordination and team play and Laos took advantage.
Chony Wenpaserth pounced on a loose back pass from Ghalan to connect with Bounkong who rounded defenders Ananta Tamang and Rohit Chand and surprised captain and goalkeeper Kiran Kumar Limbu smashing low into the near post.
Annese replaced Ghalan, Awas Lamichhane and Chaudhary with Dinesh Henjan, Arik Bista, Utsav Rai after the restart and it immediately paid dividends.
Nepal showed an improved game and Bista saved blushes, heading home a corner from Bista three minutes into the second half.
Nepal upped the pressure in search for a winner but still lacked the cutting edge and it were Laos who almost re-established their lead in a counterattack when Kyadavone Souvanny outpaced Laken Limbu to square with Bounkong, who beat Tamang to charge into the penalty box but goalkeeper Limbu came to a big rescue with a clean tackle. Souvanny then raced to find the rebound but Limbu blocked the shot to calm the storm.
Bista came close to scoring in the 82nd minute with a diving header off a cross from Limbu but Laos goalkeeper Xaysavath stood between Bista and the post to prevent the comeback.
In March, Nepal had come from behind to defeat Laos 2-1 in the Three Nations Cup final.
Nepal now face an uphill task when they travel to Vientiane next week to play their second leg.
Twenty lowest ranked teams are contesting in the 10 two-legged home-and-away ties in the first round of Asia region qualification. The winners will join 26 other nations in the second round.
Nepal are ranked 175 and Laos 187th in the FIFA rankings.