Thiruvananthapuram, Dec 23 (IANS) Mohamed Rifnas found a 90th minute winner for his side as Sri Lanka beat Nepal 1-0 in the inaugural match of the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championships at the Trivandrum International Stadium here on Wednesday.
Rifnas capitalised on a defensive error to slot home an easy goal. The last Nepal defender could not hold the ball and the Lankan emerged from behind to tuck it in.
Earlier, it was a bright start for the Islanders as a Kavindu Ishan cross just needed a touch from the Lankan forwards to surge ahead in the sixth minute, but none could guide the ball into the empty net.
Rohit Chand with a header then almost clinched Nepal’s opener but rival goalkeeper Sujan Perera pulled off a brilliant save to deny the midfielder.
Nepal thereafter had more possession of the ball but could not set up any clear-cut opportunities until the 21st minute. A free-kick was punched away by Perera but the rebound fell in the way of a Nepalese forward who could not find the back of the net.
Frustrated, Nepal’s teenage sensation Anjan Bisht tried his luck from a distance but his shot flew well over the crossbar.
Bisht then ran in from the left and his pass found two of his teammates. Each tried once but both shots were blocked and then Chand’s strike from just outside the box sailed over.
At half time the scoreline was still goalless.
After the breather Nepal stepped on the gas, and almost broke the deadlock but Gharti Magar missed a sitter in front of goal.
Magar again failed to control the ball and missed an opportunity after finding himself at an Anil Gurung cross.
The Lankans answered back with a few swift movements and Rizwan’s free-kick almost found the top corner but custodian Kiran Kumar Limbu acrobatically fisted it away.
Nepal had to pay for their missed chances as a few minutes later Rifnas found the winner for Sri Lanka.