Nepal advance to final after dramatic stalemate over Bangladesh
By Mustaq Sydeen in Maldives
For the first time in its history, Nepal advanced to the finals of the SAFF Championship when they drew 1-1 against Bangladesh in the last group stage match yesterday at the National Stadium, Maldives.
In a do or die match for both teams, Bangladesh got the perfect start when they found the back of the net in the 9th minute when a brilliant cross from their winger found Sumon Reza who headed home with a diving effort to take an early lead.
After the early goal, Bangladesh was seen playing defensively, where they were quite content to fend off all attacks from Nepal to maintain their one goal lead. It took till 17 minutes for Nepal to get their first real chance at goal when a good over-the-top ball from their winger found Anjan Bista inside the box.
The experienced striker wove his way towards the goal before unleashing a terrific kick, but his shot on the turn flew just wide. Chances went abegging at both ends and the game was slowed down and looked dull with neither team able to concoct any goal scoring opportunities.
Nepal came out with more determination in the second half and threatened to take control of the game, and almost succeeded when their striker rose the highest to head home, but his effort was saved by the Bangladesh custodian.
Bangladesh were clearly shaken out of their stride and looked frail at the back as Nepal threatened on the counter-attack and succeeded when the Nepal lads were awarded a penalty in the 88th minute following a hard tackle inside the penalty box. Taking the maximum of the opportunity Anjan Bista slammed home with a low strike to the left bottom corner to level the scores.
The Bangladesh keeper was slow to react once Bista had opted to shoot, but the equalizer was a deserved one for the Nepal lads, who had the better of what had been a cagey 90 minutes. Earlier Bangladesh were reduced to 10 men after their Goalkeeper was shown a red card following a freak hand ball clearly outside the penalty area. Nepal with 2 wins and a draw ended on top of the points table with 7 points, while Bangladesh had to settle for 4th place with 5 points with just one win.