Coming off two back-to-back defeats, Nepal finally came alive to hold traditional arch-rival India to a goalless draw and managed to salvage some pride at the Nehru Cup in New Delhi. The torrential downpour left the pitch heavily waterlogged, making playing conditions extremely challenging. However, the organizers deemed irrelevant to put off the tie despite an unplayable pitch.
The ninety – minute of action did end in a stalemate, but Nepal achieved some measure of success to give long suffering fans something to cheer about at last. It was a tremendous overall team effort with all the players stepping up their play. Nobody expected the Nepali outfit to bounce back, especially after the mediocrity they displayed in the first two matches. The end result was a big relief to supporters like me. Team Nepal for the first time in the championship put in a compelling performance. The players had fire in their belly and played with real conviction.
Nepal dominated the first forty -five minutes of play, but despite creating a good number of scoring opportunities, was unable to find the net. At times it looked, though, the visitors would turn the tables on their opponent. Although the home team had a better second half and came very close to scoring on numerous occasions, Nepal seemed the better side on the day. In the end, it was a well deserved result for a more organized and purposeful Nepal.
In contrast, India’s performance left much to be desired. I could not believe I was actually watching the same team that had played reasonably well against Maldives and Syria. All in all, they were unconvincing and made heavy weather of the match with a patchy performance. The Nepali defense did remarkably well to bottle up ace striker Sunil Chhetri who was threatening at times. Also, man of the match Kiran Chemjong turned out to be the real spoiler for India. His heroics and brilliance under the bar not only frustrated the host but helped his team earn a respectable draw. He was at his very best making spectacular saves. In addition, in the closing stages of the game, with 10 men, Nepal hung on desperately to claim a very important result much to the consternation of India.
Yes, this was a moral boosting outcome for Coach Thapa and his boys, however, it would be a blunder to get carried away and lose focus for the next match. Team Nepal must draw inspiration from the result, and at the same time, it is increasingly crucial for them to build the thrust necessary to build momentum in their final league encounter against Syria. Maldives not only exposed the Syrian’s susceptibilities but cashed in on to earn a creditable victory, taking everyone by surprise, including me. I will say, though, they are beatable, but it’s easier said than done. The big question here is: Does Nepal stand a chance against Syria? As long as they rise to the occasion and perform consistently they do stand a fighting chance.
Syria left to lick wounds, following their shock defeat to Maldives, certainly, want to sign off on a winning note. I expect them to roar back and hopefully Nepal can weather the storm and dish out a sterling performance. I have no clue what will happen. I just hope Nepal turns in another sterling performance. If they do, it would be a remarkable comeback story for Team Nepal. Come on boys! You can do it. Believe in yourself, and give your very best. Here is your big opportunity to prove that you are far from finished.