Afghanistan 1-0 (a.e.t) Nepal – The Lions Of Khorasan Set Up A Final Date With The Defending Champions
Yousef Kargar’s side had to sweat it out to go past Nepal and book a berth in their maiden final of the eight nation tournament...
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This was after the two halves of action failed to produce a goal. The Afghans shall face India in the finals scheduled for December 11, Sunday after the Men in Blue got past Maldives 3-1 in the first semi-final.
Afghanistan coach Yousef Kargar made one change to their starting line-up as Masaiullah Ibrahim came in for Ghulam Hazrat Hoddein. Rabin Shrestha didn’t recover in time for the match and in came Bikash Chhetri. Bhola Nath Silwal too was included with Bijay Garung surprisingly kept out.
It was Graham Roberts’ side who started better as Afghanistan looked poor for the first time in the competition. Jumanu Rai has a shot on goal but the Afghanistan goalkeeper Hameedullah Yousufzari pushed it for a corner in the seventh minute.Nepal should have done well and surged ahead when from a Rohit Chand volley, Santhosh Khala’s hit on the rebound is almost on its way in before the goalkeeper makes the save in the 17th minute.
The Afghanistan defenders never really settled in the match as the opposition missed several chances.
The likes of Haroon Fakhruddin, who was known for his pacy runs, Yousef Mashriqi and Ata Yamir Ali were finding it difficult to deal with the quick passing of Nepal.
It was after the half hour mark that Afghanistan had their first real chance when Belal Arezou missed a sitter when a good cross by Yousef Mashriqi was headed down by Sanjar Ahmadi who had the goal gaping in front of him but he takes too long to take a shot and the eventual one is too close to the Nepal goalkeeper.
Arezo, with five goals under his belt, saw his header come off the crossbar just before the half-time whistle as the Gorkhalis’ defenders struggled to keep them quiet.
Nepal began to play long balls into the opposition’s box but that ploy wasn’t aiding their cause given that they are shorter when compared to their counterparts.
Mohammad Esrafil did well to cut in from the left but was wasteful thereafter as he sent the ball straight into the hands of the goalkeeper instead of finding his man.
As the match progressed, Afghanistan looked the better side and they were guilty of not scoring from the chances that came their way. Sanjar Ahmadi collected a pass from Arezo and his toe poke was just about palmed away by the Nepali custodian.
Sandip Rai sent a looping ball which substitute Anil Gurung controlled well and took a strike which Hameedullah Yousufzari saved.
It was in the 101st minute that saw a moment of brilliance from Sanjar Ahmadi as he drew three Nepali defenders toward himself and backheeled to release Arezou who made no mistake from inside the box to find the back of the net after having run a good 20 yards.
Two minutes later, Sanjay Ahmadi was through on goal but blasted his shot over under pressure from Sagar Thapa.
It was in the second half of the injury time that Biraj Maharjan earned his second yellow card to be sent off by referee Masoud Tufaylieh. From the ensuring free-kick, Arezou looked to curl it in but it went over the bar.
Masaiullah Ibrahim fouled Sagar Thapa and the latter pushed the former which saw the two sides clash in the middle of the park. Bikash Malla, from the bench, came onto the pitch to enter the fracas and was pulled away by his coach. The referee gave marching orders to a member of the Nepal coaching staff.
Bijay Garung’s free-kick went straight into the goalkeeper’s hands in what was the last noteworthy piece of action.