Nepal impress in 1-1 draw against Maldives

New Delhi: Coached by former English defender Graham Roberts and cheered by some 2,000 odd supporters, Nepal on Friday impressed in their 1-1 draw with Maldives in the SAFF Championship football meet here.

The Himalayan nation played an attacking brand of football and in the end was a bit unfortunate to have come out with just a point at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium here.

Ashfaq Ali put Maldives in lead in the first-half injury time while Sandeep Rai restored parity with a strike seven minutes into the second half.

After the insipid display by Pakistan and Bangladesh in the first match, the second match under lights livened up proceedings here, thanks to some entertaining football.

Both the goals were worth a watch. After receiving a pass from Ahmed Tariq, Ashfaq dribbled past a couple of defenders and much against the run of play unleashed a scorching left-footer from about 25 yards that crashed into the back of the net, giving rival goalkeeper Bikash Malla no chance.

While luck did not smile on them in the first half, Rai gave the Nepalese outfit what they deserved immediately after the change of ends.

Raju Tamang took the corner and Rai`s well-directed header found the back of the net to draw level.

On a day when the Nepalese combined well to trouble the opponents, Anil Gurung turned out to be a disappointment as he squandered as many as three opportunities.

Had he not fumbled, Gurung could have put the match beyond Maldives` reach.

Gurung had a great chance from inside the box but his swirling attempt went wide.

Imran Mohammed then affected a save from a Gurung effort just around the half hour mark.

Maldives coach Istvan Urbanyi started with the tried-and-tested 4-4-2 formation with Ashfaq and Thariq upfront. To counter the threats from the two Maldives strikers, Nepal coach Roberts employed Rabin Shrestha and Biraj Maharjan as the two full-backs.

The match started with Nepal dominating the proceedings as they attacked from the word go, keeping Maldives confined to their own half.

Maldives` midfielders Mohamed Arif and Ibrahim Fazeel were nowhere to be seen as the island nation failed to supply their strikers.

Roberts, and understandably so, felt that his team was the one that looked better.

"Maldives were lucky that they got away. We like playing the passing game," Roberts said.

Maldives` Hungarian Coach Istvan Bela Urbanyi said his team created chances towards the end.

"It was a 50-50 game and we had our opportunity towards the end," Istvan said.

PTI

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