Nepal booked their place in the SAFF Suzuki Cup 2018 semi-finals for the fourth time in almost five years after Bimal Gharti Magar and Nawayug Shrestha forced a 2-0 win over hosts Bangladesh in the Bangabandhu National Stadium, Dhaka on Saturday. Nepal had a hard opening despite the started carving out some sensational chances. Nepal was inspired by suitably turned out Nepalese fans at the stadium. The energizing match had seen both the teams dominating the field equally but could not make the most opportunities. Bimal Gharti Magar kept pressure on Bangladesh, burying a free kick from the top of the post by sneaking it under the goalie Md Sahidul Alam in the 33rd minute. Nawayug Shrestha guided Nepal a 2-0 win scoring in the 90th minute.
Head Coach Bal Gopal Maharjan confirmed his final 20-man squad for the SAFF Suzuki Cup 2018 on Monday with Nepal Armys George Prince Karki missing the team alongside Kamal Shrestha. Nirajan Khadka and Sumar Aryal are included, however. Khadka made a astounding comeback after 5 years while Aryal has been named in National teams squad for the first time. The final squad was reduced from a preliminary 29-man squad roster announced on August 21. Biraj Maharjan will captain the side in the championship. Nepal face pliable group, with hosts Bangladesh, Pakistan and Bhutan in Group A to path the knockouts. The full 20-man squad for the SAFF Suzuki Cup is as follows: Goalkeepers: Kiran Kumar Limbu, Bikesh Kuthu, Alan Neupane. Defenders: Dinesh Rajbansi, Devendra Tamang, Biraj Maharjan C, Ananta Tamang, Aditya Chaudhary, Rohit Chand, Suman Aryal. Midfielders: Hemant Thapa Magar, Heman Gurung, Bishal Rai, Sunil Bal, Sujal Shrestha, Nirajan Khadka. Forwards: Bharat Khawas, Bimal Gharti Magar, Nawayug Shrestha, Anjan Bista.
All Nepal Football Association President Karma Tsering Sherpa announced a cash reward of Rs. 500,000 each to the players of the Nepal National if they secure the tile of the SAFF Suzuki Cup 2018. Sherpa made the announcement at farewell program organized for the Nepal National Team at the ANFA Complex on Sunday. Nepal are in Group A with Pakistan, Bhutan and Bangladesh. They open their campaign against Pakistan on the opening day on September 4 and take on Bhutan and host Bangladesh respectively. Sherpa said that the team had a good preparation for the prestigious event and are one of the title contenders. The SAFF Championship is a like a World Cup to us. We have shown how fiercely we can fight in the previous editions, and I strongly believe the title is for our taking this time because we have prepared well, he added. Through this platform, I would like to request the Nepal Government to manage a fitting reward to the players in case of a triumph in Dhaka. In the build up to the championship, Nepal had participated in the Asian Games in Indonesia and had played two friendlies in Thailand before that. Though, all the five matches ï¿½ three in Indonesia and two in Thailand ï¿½ resulted in a loss, the tour was a beneficial in terms of match exposure. Nepal interim Head Coach Bal Gopal Maharjan seconded Sherpa explaining the preparations the team had made for the championship. Maharjan was of the view that the current squad is one of the strongest Nepali teams he had seen in recent years. Minister for Youth and Sports Jagat Bahadur Sunar ,Bishwakarma, NSC Member Secretary Keshav Kumar Bista and ANFA General Secretary Indra Man Tuladhar also spoke on occasion.
In a surprising turn of events, the Maldives, who hadnt scored a goal until this game, put three past Nepal in the first semi-final of the SAFF Suzuki Cup 2018 to take the side to its first final since 2009.Nepal came into this game with some confidence after they topped Group A with two convincing wins over Bhutan and Bangladesh. Meanwhile, their opponents of the night, Maldives, needed some luck to get to the semi-final. The side was tied with Sri Lanka in the second place on every parameter and it took winning a toss, to take Petar Segrts team to the semi-final. Maldives dominated proceedings immediately and captain Akram Abdul Ghanee scored from a free-kick in the eighth minute of the game. Heavy rains, accompanied by thunderstorm and lightning forced a halt in play in the 27th minute. The game resumed after almost 30 minutes and the two sides made sure no intensity was lost after the forced break. Despite coming close a few times, Nepal were unable to penetrate the Maldives defence and Mohamed Faisal, who has enjoyed a wonderful tournament so far, was once again on top of his game between the sticks.Trying to chase a goal late into the game, Nepal were caught by a swift Maldivian counter-attack in the 84th minute and Ibrahim Waheed Hassan made no mistake and slotted the ball to the bottom right corner from the centre. Hassan struck again in the 86th minute to make sure any hope for a dramatic comeback by Nepal was put to rest. Acknowledging his mistakes, Nepal coach Bal Gopal Maharjan said after the game, We played very well. The weather was, of course, an issue but unfortunately, my tactics and substitutions were not effective. I am satisfied with my sides performance. I told my team, it does not matter how reached the semi-final. You must reach the finals no matter what. I told my players today as well, we will win this game and we will score goals, and we did it. But big compliment to Nepal, they were a very strong opponent, said the delighted Petar Segrt after the game.
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