5-goal haul against Iraq takes goal machine Sabitra to 49


 Kathmandu, Feb. 23:Every goal Sabitra Bhandari aka Samba scores wearing the national jersey, is a new record. And, Thursday night, Samba extended the ceiling to 49 goals after scoring five goals in Nepal’s second group match at the WAFF Women’s Championship against Iraq.

Samba had chances to make it a double hat-trick and reach the 50-goal milestone, but Nepali fans have to wait for it. With one more goal, Samba will have 50 goals under her belt, and she might achieve it when Nepal faces Palestine in the final group match of the championship on Saturday. 

Goal machine of Nepal, Samba, extended her goals’ tally to 44 in her 43rd appearance for the country scoring one goal against Syria in the first group match on February 20. Nepal won the match 4-1 against Syria.

Samba is currently the highest scorer for Nepal. In men’s category, Anjan Bista, Hari Khadka and Nirajan Rayamajhi are joint highest scorers with 13 goals each. Samba has conquered not only Nepal’s national records in football. She is also the highest scorer in Indian Women’s League. Moreover, after joining the women’s side of French club En Avant Guingamp in February, she became the only Nepali footballer to ever appear in a top-tier European league. 

Samba now has six goals in two matches in the competition and is moving forward for the golden boot. 

Playing in her 44th appearance, Samba completed her hat-trick in the first half; moreover, she made it four before the half-time. While Samba scored her fifth goal in the second-half, Nepal kept a clean sheet as the match ended 5-0. 

Dominating win against Iraq

Making a run from the left flank and hitting a slow curler from the far side of the box as Iraq’s goalie Zahra Al-Sadei came forward, Samba opened her and Nepal’s account in the 14th minute. 

Two minutes later, Zahra started the play after a goal kick by passing to Direen Mullabakar inside the box. However, Samba stole the ball from Direen and scored the second goal. 

Samba completed her hat-trick in the 37th minute over a quality team goal. With a play started from the own half, Puja Rana made a run with the ball on the right flank and crossed the ball to the six-yard box where Samba was waiting. Kneeling down on her two knees, Samba headed the low ball to the back of the net to take Nepal three goals ahead.

As Nepal was making good plays, they continued the pressure in the first half despite a large lead. The pressure bore fruit as Samba scored her fourth goal of the match in the 44th minute. 

In one of the best chances in the first-half, Anita Basnet’s attempt to score from the corner kick failed by some centimetres as the ball hit the far cross bar. Basnet scored from the corner kick against Syria two days ago.

Dribbling past a defender, Samba’s first shot was blocked by Direen. However, keeping her calm and concentrating on the rebound, Samba flicked the ball above the keeper and a defender on the goal line to make it four. 

While many expected Nepal, and Samba, to score more goals in the second-half, the team was only able to convert one of the several chances to extend it.

In the 80th minute, Samba scored her and the team’s fifth goal converting a quality through pass by Preeti Rai.

Keeping Iraq’s number 10, tall and fast, Shokhan Salihi in check, Nepali defenders and goalie Anjila Subba saved some good attempts from Iraq.

Thanking a number of fans who were present in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for the match, Samba, in the post-match interview, added, “I am so happy for these goals. I am really thankful for my teammates for what they did for me (to score goals).”

Likewise, Preeti Rai, who was fouled a number of times in the match as her dribbling and mental consciousness was continuously becoming a threat, in the interview said, “I am really happy that we won our second game. I think the way we are playing and the results we are giving is really good. I still think it is not enough, we still have big matches coming soon…we need to look forward to playing against big teams.” 

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