KATHMANDU, Sept 20: Nepal toiled hard to earn a 1-1 draw against visitor Bangladesh in an international friendly football match played at the Dasharath Stadium in Kathmandu on Thursday that exposed Nepal´s weak striking line-up once again.
Winger Bhola Silwal struck the equalizer for the home team after Bangladesh custodian Md Maksudur Rahman dropped a long shot off Biraj Maharjan. Silwal collected the ball dropped by Rahman and fired it from the area to avert defeat.
Earlier, Bangladesh took the driving seat two minutes before the interval through Zahid Hossain´s well-taken freekick to stun careless defensive wall of the home team and goalie Kiran Chemjong who looked clueless. Bangladesh earned the freekick from the edge after custodian Kiran Chemjong handled the ball just outside the area in a one-on-one with Hossain.
"The wall was not properly set and the freekick was excellent," Nepal´s coach Krishna Thapa said during the post-match conference. Thapa had paired U-16 player of ANFA Academy Bimal Gharti Magar as the striking partner with forward Bharat Khawas. But both the forwards failed to create magic.
Nepal started well and created as many as four attractive chances in the first half dominating ball possession. Jagjeet Shrestha fired wide in the ninth minute from close range in a header pass set by Khawas.
Four minutes later, Khawas failed to convert a through pass from skipper Sagar Thapa before goalie Maksudur Rahman grabbed it. Raju Tamang and Khawas missed one chance each during the first half.
Other than scoring, Bangladesh made only one attempt on goal before the interval. Custodian Chemjong made a fingertip save to deny Prano Tosh Kumar Das´ powerful 20-yard strike.
Nepal made five substitutions in the second half but failed to make a single attempt. Replacing debutant striker Gharti Magar, coach Thapa fielded Jumanu Rai in his place in the 56th minute and another striker Anil Gurung came in the 64th minute. But none of them made any impact.
Bangladesh, which came up without its skipper and defender Md Sujan who had picked injury during a training session, tightened its defensive line from the beginning.
Bangladesh had nearly doubled the lead five minutes into the second half. Zahid Hossain´s header while vying with glovesman Chemjong was rolling toward an open net but defender Rabin Shrestha cleared it from the goalline. Mithun Hossain´s powerful strike from the right flank sailed inches above the bar.
Nepal´s coach Thapa said that the result could have been different had Jagjeet Shrestha utilized a scoring chance in the eighth minute. Thapa also clarified that he had brought young striker Bimal Gharti Magar on his own.
"Gharti Magar played well but he could not cope with the physical strength of the senior team," said Thapa who termed the second half better than the first half. "The match improved a lot after the arrival of striker Jumanu Rai." He said that Bangladesh was a strong opponent.
Bangladesh coach Saiful Bari Titu termed the match even and lamented the absence of skipper Sujan. "I am proud of my boys, they fought and gave everything despite only training for 10 days," Bari said, adding that they had targeted not to concede early goal and succeeded in it. Bari also lamented the missed one-on-one opportunity in the second half.