SAFF Cup: Sri Lanka stun Nepal in opener

M.C. Mohammed Rifnas scored an injury time winner as Sri Lanka snatched an unlikely win over Nepal in the opening Group A match of the SAFF Suzuki Cup football tournament at the Greenfield stadium here on Wednesday.

Nepal's Bimal Magar (25) heads towards the Sri Lankan Goal at the Green Field Stadium near Thiruvananthapuram.   -  S MAHINSHA

M.C. Mohammed Rifnas scored an injury time winner as Sri Lanka snatched an unlikely win over Nepal in the opening Group A match of the SAFF Suzuki Cup football tournament at the Greenfield stadium here on Wednesday.

Just when it appeared that the match was heading for a dreary draw, Rifnas latched on to a defensive error to slot home the match-winner in the 94th minute.

The goal came following a quick counter attack from the Lankans as Nepalese were pressing hard for the elusive goal. The ball was relayed towards the Nepal box from the right flank and it landed in front of a Nepal defender who failed to clear it and an unmarked Rifnas latched on to it to score from close.

It was heartbreak for Nepal who had dominated for long periods in the match. Rifans’ goal came from one of the few moves woven by an insipid Sri Lankan side which was playing catch up with their swifter and keener opponent for major part of the match.

Nepal settled into a fine rhythm quite early and pushed the rusty Lankans on the back-foot. Showing fine coordination and slick passing, Nepal were able to slice open the Sri Lankan defence time and again but Sri Lankan goalkeeper Don Sujan Perera proved to be a stumbling block.

Rohit Chand had the first look at the Sri Lankan goal in the 11th minute when the midfielder connected a Bimal Magar cross from the right. However, Sri Lankan goalkeeper Don Sujan Perera tipped away the ball for a corner. The goalkeeper again came to his side’s rescue when he again punched out a dangerous free-kick from Heman Gurang in the 21st minute. Nepal ended the first half on a promising note with Rohit Chand firing in a long ranger from 20 yards which just went just over the bar.

Nepal started the second half positively and created a chance early. Bimal Magar probably flunked the easiest of the chances his team got in the match when he failed to reach a precise cross from Anil Gurang in the right flank. Bimal only had the goalkeeper to beat.

Jagajeet Shrestha and Bikram Lama failed to test Sri Lankan goalkeeper as they blasted out their shots as Nepal pressed hard for the goal. Sujan was again in thick of action as he tipped away a dangerous floater from Ranjit Dhimal midway through the second half.

Sri Lanka tightened the defence and concentrated on counter attacks and the ploy seemed to work for Lankans and they had their first look at Nepal goal in the 70th minute when Zarwan’s free-kick from 35 yards induced a good save from Nepal goalkeeper. The next positive intent from Sri Lanka came during injury time and it resulted in the match-winner.

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