Nepal, India play 2-2 stalemateNepal’s chances of qualifying for the AFC U-16 Championship 2018 are all but over after playing a thrilling 2-2 draw with India in their Group ‘D’ match at the Halchowk grounds on Friday.
Nepal’s chances of qualifying for the AFC U-16 Championship 2018 are all but over after playing a thrilling 2-2 draw with India in their Group ‘D’ match at the Halchowk grounds on Friday.
The result meant India go second with four points behind leaders Iraq — 4-0 winners over Palestine earlier in the day — who have six points from two games.
Nepal go into the final game on Sunday against Palestine with even victory not guaranteeing them of the runners-up spot. Palestine are out of the qualification race with two consecutive losses. Only winners of 10 groups qualify for the finals to be held in Malaysia next year. Five best runners-up from the 45-team pool along with hosts Malaysia also qualify for the finals.
All four goals came in frenetic last 15 minutes with Birjesh Chaudhary scoring twice for the home team and substitute Harpreet scoring a double for India.
In an entertaining contest, chances came thick and fast from the onset when India skipper Vikram Partap was denied by goalkeeper Bishal Sunar early in the 14th minute before Nepal created a chance of their own five minutes later. Akash Buda Magar barged into the Indian territory and delivered a defence-splitting pass into the area but skipper Roshan Rana Magar reacted a fraction of a second late allowing India keeper Lalbiakhlua Jongte to intercept it.
India defender Moirangthem Thoiba Singh then headed wide off a Bekey Oram cross in the 24th minute. Nepal replied three minutes later with Randip Paudel also heading inches wide of the woodwork. Sunar also punched out a Lalchhanhima Sailo attempt for a corner a few minutes later. Indian custodian Jongte was also called into action punching out a Darshan Gurung freekick in the 41st minute.
Chaudhary finally gave Nepal the well deserved lead in the 76th minute scoring with his left-footed attempt. The lead could only last for seven minutes as Harpreet converted from 35-yards, thanks to Nepal goalkeeper Sunar who was out of his position. Two minutes later, Harpreet stunned the local crowds with another marvellously struck goal. The game was far from over but Chaudhary found an equaliser scoring a wonderful goal at far post to hand Nepal a share of the spoils in 88th minute.
Nepal coach Sunil Kumar Shrestha was disappointed that his team could not secure all three points. “The draw was not enough and now we are almost certainly out of the qualification race,” said Shrestha adding that not even victory over Palestine on Sunday can ensure them the second place in the group. His Indian counterpart Bibiano Fernandes said that his side is in a dire need to beat Iraq on Sunday to ensure the top place and qualify for the finals next year. “Players take toll when they play three games in five days. They can not come up with the same intensity in every match,”said Fernandes.
Earlier, defending champions Iraq hammered Palestine 4-0 with second half goals from Hasan Salman Shanan, captain Ahmed Ayad Al-Hilfi, Abdulrazzaq Qasim Subaihawi and Abdullah Hasoon Hameed.
After playing a goalless draw in the first half, Shanan breathed life into the game by scoring a superb goal at the near post. Skipper Al-Hilfi produced another goal in the 66th minute to make it 2-0 for Iraq. Al Hilfi cut past two defenders before firing past helpless goalkeeper Hamed. Iraq sealed the match when Subaihawi scored the third goal from the spot in the 71st minute. Iraq were awarded the penalty after Palestine skipper Omar Kabha handled the ball inside the area. Hasoon Hameed compounded the Palestine woes with the fourth goal in the 89th minute.
Iraq coach Ali Hadi Mohsin termed the game as tough one despite a huge victory. “All the teams in the group are really tough but what’s more important is that we earned all three points,” said Mohsin. “We have not secured qualification yet and are taking our next match the way we have taken the first two games.”
Yahya Jalayta, the Palestine coach, said his boys played well in the first 45 minutes but were unable to replicate it after the break as some of the players sustained injuries. “My boys are not coping up well with the local weather which is affecting their game. We will show our true colours on Sunday,” said Jalayta.
Palestine 0-4 Iraq
Nepal 2-2 India