By A Staff Reporter,Kathmandu, Mar. 23: Nepal started the Prime Minister Three Nations Cup with a 2-0 win over Laos at Dasarath Stadium in Kathmandu on Wednesday. Striker Nawayug Shrestha and Defender Anant Tamang netted one goal each in both halves to claim the second win over Laos.
The victory over Bhutan in its second match will send Nepal into the final of the Cup. The top two teams from the single round-robin league will book a place in the final. Bhutan will play Laos on Saturday before meeting the home side on Tuesday.
Nepal had earlier defeated Laos in the semi-final of the AFC Solidarity Cup held in Malaysia in 2016. Nepal, then, defeated Laos by 3-0 in the penalty shoot-out after playing out a 2-2 draw in regulation and extra time.
Six months before the Solidarity Cup, Nepal and Laos had played out a 1-1 draw in the friendly match held eight years ago. Defender Tamang Tamang put Nepal ahead in the 30th minute. He made a run from out of the box and headed home the corner off Arik Bista from six yards. It was his third international goal in his 46th cap.
After conceding a goal, Laos intensified the attack in the Nepali half but could not give any trouble to Nepali shot-stopper Kiran Kumar Limbu.
Nepal, however, squandered some chances earlier. Pujan Uparkoti missed the chance with his wayward shot in the 19th minute. His shot from out of the box went above the bar. Laos also went closer to the goal in the first half. AT Viengkham’s 25-yard long shot could not get the direction to the post.
Striker Shrestha doubled the lead in the 56th minute with a spectacular goal. He took control of the open ball that dropped to his feet in the mid of Laos’s half and smashed a half-volley from the 35-yard which went straight into the post of the adversary. Custodian Xaysavath Souvanhnasok’s stretch was not enough to stop Laos from conceding second goal.
Nepal nearly conceded a goal after Bounkong’s strike beat goalie Kiran in the 67th minute but defender Anant came to the rescue with a goal-line save. Defender Rohit Chand saved another strike from the six-yard box immediately.
Ayush Ghalan went closer to the goal in the 71st minute but he wasted the chance by sending the ball off Nawayug above the bar from the area in a one-to-one with the Laos custodian. Defender Rohit Chand’s strike to the free kick-off hit the bar in the 84th minute.
Coach Vincenzo Alberto Annesse continued the 4-3-3 format applied by former Kuwaiti Coach Abdullah Almuitari in the Nepali squad by fielding strikers Bharat Khawas, Nawayug Shrestha and Ayush Ghalan. Anjan Bista was benched due to injury.
Right back Sanish Shrestha of APF Football Club also made a debut in the national colour today. Before APF, Shrestha played first division from Friend’s Club. Deepak Raj Singh Thakuri of Satdobato Youth Club also made his international debut. He substituted NawaYug in the 83rd minute.