Shillong, Feb 7 (IANS) Nepal continued their resurgence, beating the Maldives 2-0 in their 12th South Asian Games (SAG) women’s football competition match at the Jawaharlal Nehru Sports Stadium here on Sunday.
Nepal’s captain Anu Malik and Niru Thapa scored their second respective goals of the tournament.
The strong Nepali squad could have drawn their first blood in the first minute of the match but were denied by a brilliant save by Maldivian goalkeeper Aishath Abdul Razzaq.
Nepal attacked progressively and maintained bulk of the possession early on. Sabitra Bhandari came up with a crackling shot for Nepal in the 30th minute but her attempt was brilliantly saved by the Maldives custodian Aishath Abdul Razzaq.
Nepal’s lead finally came in the 36th minute with Sabitra once again in action, feeding a calculated ball to Anu Lama for her second goal of the tournament. The forward line moved up the pitch following a counter attack as Nepal’s skipper tapped in an easy goal from the pass.
The Maldives’ first corner in the 44th minute resulted in a scramble inside the box that saw them come close to scoring at at least three times before the ball was cleared. At the break, Nepal maintained a narrow yet convincing goal lead.
After an impressive show against India in their last match, the Maldives once again defended well but the pressure on them appeared too much to handle.
In the 61st minute, Sabitra Bhandari produced an acrobatic bicycle kick that barely missed the target. The decisive goal came in the 89th minute when Niru Thapa scored following a lapse in the Maldivian defence, resulting in a comfortable 2-0 win.
“I am happy the way the team played. We could have scored many goals. Our target is to win and win gold,” an elated coach of Nepal Dhruba Bahadur said at a match press conference after the match.
With two straight wins, Nepal will face the defending champions India on February 11.
“I saw the Indian-Maldives goalless match. I hope we will be able to win the against India but game is game nothing can be said off the ground,” Dhruba said.
Nepali’s skipper Anu Lama said, “We are not fearful against the Indian team but we will play our best to beat them. Our team plan is to defeat every team.”
Crediting her two consecutive goals in two matches to her team, Lama said, “My plan is to score in every match but this can happen only with the team efforts.”
Maldives coach Naoko Kawamoto said that she was not disappointed with the result as she believes her team has improved over the last game against India.
“I am not disappointed and the team has prevented Nepal from scoring many goals,” Kawamoto said.
Asked about the Maldives strategy for next match against Bangladesh (February 9), Kawamoto said, “since the tough matches against India and Nepal are over now. We will be looking towards a more aggressive approach against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in their upcoming matches,” she said.