Nepal finished its SAFF Championship 2023 campaign on a high after clinching a narrow 1-0 win against Pakistan at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium here on Tuesday.
Aashish Chaudhary scored the winner late in the second half as Pakistan ended the tournament as the only team from Group A without a single point in three matches.
The Gorkhalis started the match on the front foot, putting the Pakistan backline under pressure. Shahzad Anwar’s team looked devoid of ideas, mostly resorting to hoofing the ball up the pitch to clear any attacking threat.
Nepal got its first significant chance of the match in the 12th minute when Bimal Gharti Magar’s free kick sailed off-target after he was fouled by Pakistan defender Syed Abdullah Shah just outside the box.
Pakistan had a penalty shout in the 23rd minute after Laken Limbu’s trailing leg brought down Rahis Nabi inside the Nepal box. The Pak Shaheens appealed to referee Sinan Hussain for a spot-kick, only for the latter to dismiss the claim immediately.
Nepal continued piling on the pressure and got two quick chances in the 40th and 41st minutes.
Sanish Shrestha’s shot – after a solo run into the Pakistan box, wriggling past three Nepal players – was initially blocked by Suliman, only to see Gorkhalis mounting another attack.
Manish Dangi squared the ball to Magar from the right flank, who then took a couple of touches and went for a grounded shot, forcing a save by Yousuf Ijaz Butt to keep the scores level.
Pakistan had a better start in the second half, creating a chance in the 48th minute – a long ball inside the Nepal box caught its backline napping.
Nabi’s header found Otis Khan, who went for a bicycle kick but the effort was straight at Kiram Kumar Limbu, who caught the ball without fuss.
Nepal, on the other hand, came closest to scoring in the 68th minute from a freekick after Limbu was brought down by Mohammad Umar Hayat just outside the box on the left.
But Devendra Tamang’s shot, well on target, swerved mid-air and beat the Pakistan keeper, but instead of rattling the net, crashed against the crossbar.
Nepal coach Vincenzo Alberto Annese urged his team to move up the pitch and choke the Pakistan backline, and the pressure finally paid off in the 80th minute.
Limbu, getting the ball just outside the Pakistan box, set up substitute Chaudhary, who went for a first-time effort on the volley. Though the shot was low and not the strongest but somehow it crept inside the net, past a diving Butt.
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