KATHMANDU, April 7: Nepal started their AFC Challenge Cup group D qualifiers campaign with a win on Thursday as they defeated Afghanistan 1-0 at the Dasharath Stadium.
Bharat Khawas scored the lone goal for the home team in the 27th minute to delight a large number of home supporters present at the stadium. Khawas quickly slammed in the decider from box in a rebounder from Anil Gurung which he got off a long pass from defender Rohit Chand.
The victory also maintained Nepal´s cent percent winning streak over Afghanistan as they recorded third victory in in as many matches played.
Despite Nepal´s victory, the home side failed to coordinate well and also featured lots of miss-passes. The midfield also failed to supply abundant passes.
The match remained highly competitive during the first 15 minutes. However, Nepal put up a better show during the later part of the first half and after interval. They created as many as half a dozen scoring chances.
In contrast to Nepal, the Afghans could create only a couple of attractive moves. However, the stubborn Nepali defending line up consisting of Rohit Chand, skipper Sagar Thapa and Sandip Rai and some heroic saves from custodian Kiran Chemjong, who was making his debut at the home ground, thwarted Afghanistan attacks.
Nepal had to wait until 21st minute to make their first post attacks when Anil Gurung headed Biraj Maharjan´s cross inches wide from the post. Striker Jumanu Rai failed to send the ball past net four minutes before interval when his powerful shot sailed above the bar.
Winger Rabin Shrestha nearly doubled the advantage in the 63rd minute when he beat Afghan goalie Mansur Faqiryar and hit the ball towards net but D Shrityar defended it ahead from the goal-line. During the injury time, Nirajan Khadka could not achieve the target as his low ball went inches wide from the post.
The Afghans first on target attack came during the 73rd minute when Z Islam´s low ball was attractively denied by goalie Kiran Chemjong and in the 85th minute Chemjong did not struggle much when he got M Hadid shot directly into his hand.
Nepali football team.
Nepal´s British coach Graham Roberts was delighted with his team´s performance and termed it "outstanding". "We were good in every department and all the players were highly spirited. I am proud of the boys," Roberts said, adding that his side created some great chances in the second half but failed to utilize them.
Nepali skipper Thapa also echoed similar opinion and said every member of the team fulfilled their duties.
Roberts´ counterpart Mohammad Yosuf Kargar said that his side could not put up good show as they were playing in Nepal. "We got some opportunities in the second half but could not utilize them." He termed Nepali team as technically sound and quick.
Star Defender Rohit Chand is almost certain to miss Saturday´s match against North Korea as he has sustained ankle injury. According to a team member, coach Roberts is likely to give him a rest during Saturday´s match as his presence will be more important against Sri Lanka on Monday.
Chand sustained injuries during the early second half but returned in the field after primary treatment. The coach has made up his mind to give Chand a rest as a victory against Sri Lanka in their last group match will seal Nepal´s place for the next stage.