Nepal bounced back strongly to keep their hopes of a semifinal berth in the SAFF Suzuki Cup alive with a 4-0 thrashing of 10-man Bhutan in their Group A encounter at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.
Ananta Tamang headed Nepal into the lead in the first half before Sunil Bal and substitutes Bharat Khawas and Niranjan Khadka struck one goal each in the second half to help Nepal stay in the race despite the 2-1 defeat to Pakistan in their group opener.
Nepal and Bhutan came into the match after losing their respective openers. Nepal coach Bal Gopal Maharjan brought three changes to the squad that lost to Pakistan, leading to their dominant performance yesterday.
With relentless support from the stands throughout the match, Nepal played some brilliant football, launching quick attacks from both flanks after some precise passing, to register a much deserved victory and send a strong message to the hosts.
Tamang opened the scoring with a fine header in the 20th minute after coming close to breaking the deadlock twice earlier in the game, but it was only after the break that the Nepalese came out all guns blazing.
The sending off of Bhutan defender Nima Wangdi in the 70th minute for a foul on Niranjan Khadka inside the box, gave the Nepalese the numerical advantage and, shortly after, a two-goal lead, with Sunil slotting home the rebound after Bimal Gharti Magar's initial shot was parried by Bhutan goalkeeper Tshering Dendup.
The second goal charged up the Nepalese further as Bharat and Niranjan added two fantastic goals in the 79th and 88th minutes respectively to complete the rout.
Nepal coach Maharjan said that this comprehensive victory was certainly a boost to the team ahead of their last group stage encounter against Bangladesh on Saturday.
"Although Bangladesh are a good team and it's always tough to beat a home team, if we play the way we did today I think we can win. I believe in my players and the motivation they got from today will hopefully be enough to keep the right combination in our next match," the Nepal coach said during the post match press briefing.