Hosts Nepal played a 0-0 stalemate against Bangladesh in the final group match of the Three Nations Cup at the Dasharath Stadium on Saturday to set up the title decider against the same South Asian opponents.
Bangladesh, who had already booked final spot after a 1-0 win over Kyrgyzstan U-23, topped the group with four points after a win and a draw. Nepal secured two points, one more than the central Asian country, to finish runners up.
Both the finalists, however, made it to the final without scoring a single goal on their own as Bangladesh had defeated Kyrgyz age group team on the back of an own goal.
Hosts Nepal came up with the same starting XI they played against the Kyrgyz youth team, giving official international debut to three players including midfielders Tridev Gurung and Sanjog Rai, and he also introduced defender Nishan Khadka as substitute in the second half.
Nepal created nearly half a dozen scoring chances but repeated their problem in the attacking department and went goalless in the eighth match in a row including the game against Kyrgyzstan. They had last scored against Chinese Taipei in September 2019 during an away match of the World Cup and Asian Cup joint qualifiers.
“We have had problems in attacking third for a long time,” attributed Nepal’s coach Bal Gopal Maharjan. “I hope we will break the goal drought in the final.”
He, however, was satisfied with his team’s performance. “The boys played as per the match plan as we came into the match setting an ambition of not losing points and we are finally through to the final.”
Nepal’s vice captain and man-of-the-match Rohit Chand said they should be happy to have secured a place in the final.
Not only the home team, but their South Asian opponents were also exposed in the finishing line-up. Though they came up with a much better and organised performance in comparison to their last outing against Kyrgyzstan, they never looked dangerous at the opposition’s post.
“Both sides have problems in the scoring department and it has been a long time that we have problems scoring. It will be nice to score in the final,” Bangladesh’s British coach James Day said. “It was a tight competition.”
The Brition, who used 22 players from the 23-member squad, said: “We achieved our goal to give exposure to maximum players and prepare for three matches [World Cup Qualifiers in June].”
Home team forward Anjan Bista wasted a golden scoring opportunity in the 21st minute after his free header from the area in Tridev Gurung’s perfect cross sailed above the bar. In the 24th, Gurung tapped wide from close range in a short pass set by forward Avishek Rijal.
Five minutes before the break Bangladesh skipper Jamal Bhuyan’s 30-yard freekick sailed above the crossbar.
Winger Sunil Bal and midfielder Bishal Rai came as second half replacements of Ravi Shankar Paswan and Sanjog Rai. In the 59th, forward Bista ended up applying a feeble shot from the area in Bal’s pass providing an easy opportunity for Bangladesh goalie Md Sahidul Alam to grab it. In the 65th, Avishek Bista headed wide from the edge of the six-yard box in Ranjit Dhimal cross.
Forward Darshan Gurung and defender Nishan Khadka came in the 71st minute replacing Avishek Rijal and defender Dhimal. In the 82nd minute, substitute Gurung’s header in Dinesh Rajbanshi throw ball hit the bar.