Nepal National U-19 Team clinched the title of 1st SAFF U19 Championship as they defeated India National U-19 Team 5-4 on penalties in the final match of 1st SAFF U19 Championship at ANFA Complex on Saturday.
This is the first ever trophy that Nepal has won after 22 years in any age bar tournament. Nepal National Team had won South Asian Games trophy in 1993.
The finalists locked horns in 1-1 draw in the regulation time to invite spot kick battle. Nepal goalie Sojit Gurung saved the first penalty kick of Moinuddin and Ananta Tamang scored in the last penalty kick that turned out to be a match winner. Hemanta Thapa Magar, Sunil Bal, Bishwas Shrestha and Dona Thapa also converted their kicks. Hayden, Sarthak, Daniel and Shahbaz of India converted their kicks.
Tej Tamang provided lead to Nepal in the 31st minute but India leveled the score through Shahabaz in the 88th minute. Shahbaz scored in a spot-kick that India earned after Dinesh Rajbanshi handed the ball inside the box.
Nepal impressed thousands of Nepalese fans with their fantastic start. They played much improved game in the final as compared to their previous matches. They played a very competitive game from the word go. In the energizing match, Nepal made the first notable move in the very first minute of the match when skipper Bimal Gharti Magar supplied a neat ball to Bishwas Shrestha but the simple attempt from the left flank was cleared out by an Indian defender. The real chance for Nepal came in after seven minute but Skipper Magar failed to direct the ball from a very close range after Indian defender made a blunder.
A quick counter move created by India nearly seized Nepal in the 15th minute but goalie Sojit Gurung fully stretched to dive and punch Daniel’s powerful shot. Bimal almost sent the fans to the roof in the 17th minute but he failed to beat an Indian defender and Dona Thapa in the same move saw his shot rolling inches wide the pole.
Tej Tamang finally drew the blood for Nepal in the 31st minute. Tej, who was inside the crowded box, utilized a corner kick off Sunil Bal and made a cool finish on the head ball dropped by Ananta Tamang, to lead the team upfront. Bishwas Shrestha should have done it earlier but his powerful volley was brilliantly saved by Indian goalie Sayak Barai.
Nepal origin Anirudh Thapa and Daniel squandered chance each for India before in the 23rd and 25th minute respectively. Anirudh’s 25 yard long shot flew little above the bar while Daniel was well challenged by Ananta Tammang in the occasion. After taking a lead, Gorkhali displayed more confident game while India looked aggressive.
Nepal should have two goals lead before the half time, had not Bimal and Tej fired the ball wide instead of passing the ball to their mates in each ocassion just few minutes before half time whistle.
After the lemon break, Gorkhali looked much more recharged to make one after another dangerous move. Sunil Bal nearly doubled the tally in the 56th minute but Indian custodian Sayak, who was busy inside his den, wonderfully denied Bal’s strike. However, the Blue tigers were frequently troubled by back liners and goalie Sojit.
Five minutes after Skipper Bimal was thwarted by Indian defender Gursimrat Singh, another attempt from Anjan Bista in the 70th minute wasn't that difficult for goalie Sayak as he easily palmed Bistas’s low drive. Silly decision of Nepal Head Coach Bal Gopal Maharjan, fielding unfit Hemant Thapa Magar and Dinesh Rajbanshi inside the field paid off as Thapa Magar became the reason to award India a free kick thrice from just out the box and Rajbanshi helped India to award a penalty kick that leveled the score.
Nepal was just three minutes away from the celebration but unfit defender Rajbanshi handled the ball inside the box and match referee Adam Fazeel felt no hesitation to flash out yellow card to Dinesh Rajbanshi and awarded India a penalty kick.
Nepal defeated Bhutan and Bangladesh in their group matches and knocked out Afghanistan in the semifinal match.
Video: Manoj Singh
Nepal: Sojit Gurung (GK), Sunil, Anjan Bista, Ananta Tamang , Aakash, Dona Thapa, Bimal Gharti Magar (C), Bishwas Shrestha, Tej, Chirring Gurung, Kamal Shrestha