KATHMANDU, March 28: Profligate Nepal was made to pay by Kyrgyzstan in a game decided by two soft goals at the Dasharath Stadium Saturday putting Nepal´s hopes of advancing through the AFC Challenge Cup Group ‘C’ qualifiers in jeopardy.
Nepal took lead in bizarre circumstances through an unthreatening freekick from 40 yards by Biraj Maharjan in the second minute but conceded a soft penalty through the goalscorer in the 85th that undid all the domination Nepal enjoyed in the match that could easily have been won 5-0 on another day.
Nepal now has to depend on the result of the last match between Palestine and Kyrgyzstan to be held Monday to reach the final round of the Challenge Cup to be held in Hyderabad, India next year.
Nepal, that played a goalless draw against Palestine on Thursday, can advance as group winner only if Palestine and Kyrgyzstan play a goalless draw because of its better disciplinary record as the tournament rules consider disciplinary records when two teams are tied on points, goal difference and goals scored. All other possible results will go against Nepal which can then only advance as the best runner-up in the four qualifying groups.
The winner of the last match shall advance to the final round as group winner and any goalscoring draw will see Kyrgyzstan advance on higher number of goals scored.
Nepal took an early lead through Biraj Maharjan´s seemingly harmless 40-yard freekick that was somehow allowed to go into the net by the careless defense line and flatfooted Kyrgyz custodian Matiash Pavel. Nepal was awarded with the freekick after Kyrgyzstan skipper Sydykov Rulsan brought down Jumanu Rai near the center line.
The host backed by thousands of supporters could not hold on to the lead throughout the match as it conceded the equalizer five minutes from time through a penalty from Murzaev Mirlan after Biraj Maharjan was adjudged to have handled the ball inside the box.
Likewise Jumanu spurned a golden chance on the hour mark as he tried to take on the sole defender himself instead of passing to his free strike partner Anil Gurung at the edge of the box on a move initiated by Chetan Ghimire.
Anil showed Jumanu how to pass the ball selflessly two minutes later setting him up beautifully inside the box but Jumanu missed from a close range. One minute later Bijay Gurung failed to score from the same position with just the goalkeeper to beat.
Nepal was unlucky in the 66th minute also as a low goalbound shot by Bijay Gurung rebounded from near the goalline hitting Santosh Sahukhala who had gone down in front of the goal.
Similarly in the 90th minute, Bijay’s fierce shot from inside the box hit the crossbar after taking fingertips of the goalkeeper.
Kyrgyzstan also made a host of post attempts but none were as threatening as the ones made by Nepal in that four-minute stretch after the hour mark. Murzaev Mirlan’s powerful shot in the 10th minute deflected after hitting the crossbar. Nepali goalie Bikash Malla punched a Zemlianuhin Anton shot off a short pass from Bokoev on a freekick.