Overcoming a spell of jittery moments Nepal hung on to an impressive 1-1 draw against Pakistan in the ongoing SAFF Championship in New Delhi.
When the referee blew the long whistle signaling the end of the game, I was one happy camper! I let out a sigh of relief, knowing that we were still in contention for the trophy that has eluded us so long. Prior to that I was somewhat edgy and chose to keep my fingers crossed. I did not want to take anything for granted. A defeat was unthinkable but based on how we have been playing I was optimistic for a good result.
Having said that, I was not ready to write Pakistan off. All Pakistan needed was a victory to upset our applecart. To be fair that possibility could not be ruled out. Thankfully, they fell short of the target much to my joy. Hard to believe that it took us twelve long years to reach this stage of the championship.
I expected my team to play aggressively, which they did. Otherwise, a defensive approach would not have served our interest.
Credit goes to our youngsters for hanging tough and playing a very robust and positive brand of football. On the day we were once again the better and dominant side, however, our struggle to find the net continued and continues.
Nonetheless, it was a delight to see the boys display lots of pluck and aggression, and at the end of the day the strategy (to contain the opposition) paid off.
Pakistan was letdown by poor finish and their inability to play organized football. They had their share of chances mostly in the second half only to waste.
For the third straight match the defense and midfielders stole the thunder. Though a penalty was conceded by Sandip Rai, they played remarkably well, over all. In spite of mounting pressure, especially in the second half, they held firm.
The mid field duo Raju Tamang and Bijay Gurung put up a stellar performance. Talented Bharat Khawas became the third defender to score a goal mid way through the first half to put Nepal in the lead.
The offense performed in patches without Anil Gurung who was rested by Coach Roberts. It is time to wake up an act. Our porous offensive line is an area of serious concern.
The final Group A matches on 6 December, 2011 will decide Nepal’ opponent in the semi-finals. In my estimation it will be either India or Afghanistan.
A vastly improved Maldives also advanced to the semi-final with an emphatic 3-1 victory over Bangladesh. The win also gave the Islanders the pole position in the group edging out Nepal on a better goal difference.