SAG: Nepal holds India to a goalless draw

With four points from three matches, India will have to script a win against Bangladesh (4 points) in their final league match on Saturday, to stay in contention for a spot in the final.

India's Prameshwori Devi (left) and Dipa Adhikari of Nepal battle for possesion.   -  M. Moorthy

The tag of favourite hasn’t sat easily on the Indian women’s football team at the 12th South Asian Games here. Ranked well and above the rest of the teams as per the FIFA rankings, the team hasn’t showed the requisite dominance.

India’s scoring woes continued on Thursday when Nepal held it to a goalless draw at the Nehru Stadium on Thursday. With five points from three matches, India will have to script a win against Bangladesh (six points) in their final league match on Saturday, to stay in contention for a spot in the final. Nepal, on the other hand, has confirmed its place in the final with seven points, with a match remaining against minnows Sri Lanka.

Nepal was up to the task against the host as each team had as many scoring opportunities as the other. Striker Kamala Devi and forward Dangmei Grace gave enough hopes of creating a wonderful goal, but the Nepal defence didn’t flinch one bit. The same can be said of the Indian defence, too, when Nepal counter-attacked.

Grace injured

Grace, who was trying her best to score and assist as well, was stretchered out of the field after colliding with a defender in the first half. She was replaced by Bala Devi.

India had a few opportunities, with Kamala breathing down the opponent’s neck, but could not capitalise on any of them.

Nepal’s best chance to score came in the 74th minute when a beautiful lob from Dipa Adhikari found skipper Anu Lama whose header found the top post, and the rebound came straight back to Anu but she hit it wide.

India’s head coach Sajid Yousuf Dhar was obviously disappointed with the outcome. “We were unlucky. We had our chances. Congratulations to Nepal for qualifying (for the semifinals). They defended well,” he said. Sajid also said the goalless draw against Maldives the other day was crucial and a win then could have saved India a lot of hassles.

Nepal coach Dhruba Bahadur was delighted with the result. “It’s good to be in the final. We were put under pressure by India in the second half but we played deep and were confident,” he said.

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