Nepal pull second win in SAFF ChampionshipNepal defeated Sri Lanka for the first time in the tournament after 22 years to climb on top of the SAFF table with six points from two matches.
Nepal edged Sri Lanka 3-1 on Monday to register their second victory in a row and strengthen their bid for the first SAFF Championship final taking place at the National Football Stadium in Male, Maldives.
Nepal, which has never reached the final of the tournament since its inception in 1993, have made a strong start to their campaign with two back-to-back wins. They defeated hosts and defending champions Maldives in their first match on Friday.
Youth forward Suman Lama put Nepal ahead before the break while Anjan Bista and Ayush Ghalan struck in the second half. Marvin Hamilton and Dillon De Silva were on target for Sri Lanka.
The outcome puts Nepal on top of the standings with six points. The top two sides will go into the final. Bangladesh are second with four points, India third with one point while Maldives and Sri Lanka are yet to register wins. India and Maldives have played only one match while other sides have played two matches each.
Nepal will play their next match against India on October 10.
Sri Lanka, who lost 1-0 against Bangladesh in their last match, started the game brightly and dominated possession but Nepal troubled the islanders with their quick pace and counter attacks.
"I am happy with three points and it was a very difficult game," said Nepal's coach Abdullah Almutairi. "Now maybe we have a chance to qualify for the final."
Regarding his team's approach of counter attack, Almutairi said: "In the competition, we don't care about performance but points. If you want to keep the ball, keep it and I keep the points."
"Performance is important in friendly matches because that makes you better for competition. But points are important in competition," he said.
Nepal once again played with compact defence with Gautam Shrestha, Rohit Chand, Ananta Tamang and Suman Aryal. Scorer Bista and Lama were paired alongside Nawayug Shrestha in the attacking department, while Pujan Uparkoti, Tej Tamang and Bishal Rai started as midfielders.
Midfielder Rai came in place of Sujal Shrestha who started in the last game, while forward Lama was on the starting lineup with defender Dinesh Rajbanshi benched for the match.
De Silva tried to trouble Nepali goalkeeper and captain Kiran Limbu in the 19th minute but ended up firing wide after dribbling past Gautam Shrestha.
Lama opened the scoring for Nepal at the half hour mark through Nawayug Shrestha’s pass. Lama’s scorcher from a close range forced the ball past Sri Lankan goalie Suman Perera after the ball struck the inner edge of the post and dropped at the goalline. It was Lama’s first goal for the national team.
Perera made a spectacular save in the early second half as he punched Anjan Bista's freekick. But Bista scored shortly afterwards in the 51st minute as he tapped in goalie Perera's rebounder off Nawayug’s close range shot. It was his sixth international goal.
Defender Aryal rescued Nepal in the 55th minute as he made a goal line clearance to prevent Kavindu Ishan's strike when goalie Limbu was out of his position. But Sri Lanka cut the deficit in the 57th minute through Marvin Hamilton.
In the 67th minute, Sri Lankan goalie Perera denied Santosh Tamang a one-on-one goal scoring opportunity set up by Manish Dangi. Nepal restored their two-goal lead in the 86th minute when Ayush Ghalan, the replacement of Bishal Rai, made a cool finish controlling the pass of Tej Tamang. It was Ghalan’s first international goal.
Sri Lanka made it 3-2 in the stoppage time through penalty after Gautam Shrestha handled the ball inside the area. De Silva converted the penalty.