Wim Koevermans' outfit produced yet another poor performance at the SAFF Championship as they went down to Nepal...
By Anselm Noronha with Ayush Srivastava at the stadium
India have qualifed for the semi-finals of the SAFF Championship 2013 despite their 1-2 defeat to Nepal in the last Group A encounter at the Dashrath Rangasala in Kathmandu. Jack Stefanowski's side continued their unbeaten run and finished as the group leaders with seven points from three outings.
Anil Gurung and Jumanu Rai scored for the host nation in the 70th and 81st minutes respectively, while Syed Rahim Nabi (90+2') pulled one back for India in stoppage time.
Pakistan beat Bangladesh 2-1 in the other other match played at the Halchowk Rangasala, but lost out to the Blue Tigers who have a better head-to-head record against Shaahzad Anwar's side.
Wim Koevermans made two changes to his starting eleven that faced Bangladesh on Tuesday, with Lenny Rodrigues and Francis Fernandes relegated to the bench, while Syed Rahim Nabi and Arata Izumi were handed a start. Meanwhile, Jack Stefanowski included Jagjit Shrestha who was struggling with an injury ahead of the game.
Subrata Paul survived a nervous moment in the 14th minute as he flapped at a cross, following which a chip by Bholanath Silwal caught him unaware as the Indian custodian somehow managed tip it out on to the post with Nirmal Chettri at hand to clear the remains.
India’s first chance came only in the 20th minute, but Arata couldn’t direct his header on target from a Chettri cross from the right.Jagjit Shrestha couldn't last long and had to be substituted as Jumanu Rai came in at the half hour mark.
In the 37thminute, Chettri was guilty of sloppily giving away the ball in defense and India were lucky that Bholanath failed to play in striker Anil Gurung after winning the possession from the Indian right-back.At half-time, the score remained 0-0 as neither side seized the initiative, though Nepal had a couple of half chances to capitalise on.
India switched formation to 4-4-2 in the second half, with Jeje Lalpekhlua moving into support with Sunil Chhetri. It started paying immediate dividends as India started keeping the ball better, and in more forward areas.
Chhetri then got a yellow card which puts his appearance in the semi-final in jeopardy should India have qualified. With Jeje not looking at his sharpest, Koevermans threw in Robin Singh, whose physical presence started creating a issue for Nepal, and the striker came close to putting India in the lead as he twisted and turned before poking the ball goalwards, but it was deflected out for a corner.
However all of India’s domination came undone when Anil Gurung put Nepal ahead in the 70th minute when a Sandip Rai free-kick was headed goalwards but hit the bar and came back. However with Subrata already committed to punching the ball, the goal was empty and the ball rolled to Gurung, who tapped it in, sparking a pandemonium in the stadium.
Stefanowsfi's men almost doubled their lead when Arnab Mondal misjudged a header, allowing Gurung in on goal, but the striker’s shot was saved by the Paul.
However, it was only a momentary respite as Jumanu Rai doubled the home side’s advantage as he got to end of Rabin Shrestha’s cross and buried the ball into the back of the net in the 80th minute.
The last 10 minutes involved India desperately throwing men and the ball forward, hoping for some sort of miracle.
However, India had used up all their luck in the first two games, and no ball really fell for them before Syed Rahim Nabi turned in a cross during injury time which acted like a consolation.
While Wim Koevermans’ side eventually booked their place in the final four thanks to Pakistan’s win over Bangladesh, lots of questions will be asked of the tactics and personnel employed by the Dutchman.
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