Nepal registered their first victory in the Bangabandhu SAFF Championship overpowering Afghanistan 3-0 at the Bangabandhu National Stadium Wednesday. Despite the victory, the Himalayan kingdom failed to book a semifinal berth as defending champions Maldives beat India 2-0 later in the day.
Anil Gurung, I-league forward of Shilong Lajong, scored a brace and Bijay Gurung netted the other as Nepal equalled Maldives on four points with the last group match between Maldives and India still to kick-off. Nepal’s only chance to make the last four was a Maldives loss to India in the Group A finale.
In the day’s first match, Afghanistan sent the first chill through the Nepal spine in the 6th minute as midfielder Israfeel Kohistani dashed through the midfield with a long ball and unleashed a fierce drive from the top of the box but much to the dismay to his teammates the ball came off the inside of the crosspiece.
Nepal survived the close call and encountering the physically superior Afghans fought back with their speedy counterattacks. Forward Santosh Shahukhala fed by Bijay Gurung curled a lob from the left edge of the box in the 16th minute but the ball missed the crosspiece by a few inches.
Nepal piled up all the pressure upon their opponents but their efforts fell short of finishing. The Afghan defenders’ never-say-die approach continued to deny the Nepalese attackers.
But after the resumption the Afghan defence ran out of steam and was bulldozed by the Nepalese offence led by a lively Anil Gurung. Afghanistan were hit further by the sloppy keeping of their custodian Hamidullah Yusufzai whose blunders prompted Nepal to take the full command.
Anil broke the deadlock in the 56th minute taking control of a Chetan Ghimire cross in the middle of the box as he drilled a low shot past Yusufzai in the far post.
The goal took its toll as Afghanistan’s resistance and concentration both went down. Biajy Gurung in the centre of all his team’s attacks, struck the second in the 66th minute. Anil Gurung capitalized on a fumble by Yusufzai and square passed to Jumnau Rai but Yusufzai managed to dive into the line of the ball, but the resulting rebound fell to Bijay who smashed a left footer into the back of the net.