Thapa strike spares India’s blushes against Nepal in first friendly
India and Nepal played out a 1-1 draw in the first of a two-friendly match-up at the Dasharath Stadium in Kathmandu on Thursday evening. The hosts went ahead in the first half through an Anjan Bista strike after which substitute Anirudh Thapa scored the equaliser for India in the second period.
- Nepal stunned India in the 35th minute through a Bista goal.
- Igor Stimac’s men got their equaliser in the 60th minute through Thapa.
India started the game on a positive note picking up back-to-back corners in the first couple of minutes. Brandon Fernandes provided good balls in but on the first occasion Chinglensana Singh couldn’t make enough room for himself to strike it properly and on the second occasion, the ball was headed way off-target again by the Indian defender.
After those early moments of scare, Nepal picked up their game and showed great control on the ball in the middle of the park. However, they couldn’t create clear-cut opportunities for themselves near the opposition goal to get ahead in the contest.
In the 24th minute, Manvir Singh ran towards the box from the right and won a corner, however, Nepalese goalkeeper Kiran Kumar Limbu was quick to come out and punch the Fernandes delivery away.
While India went into the match as red-hot favourites, there was nothing to choose between the two teams in the first 30 minutes or so – if truth be told.
So, it was no surprise when Nepal went ahead in the 35th minute of the game. A back-pass from Chinglensana went awry and forward Bista latched onto it, rounding Indian custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and finding the back of the net to the delight of home fans in the stadium.
In injury time, there was another scare for India but Gurpreet dove to his left to grab a well-struck shot from the edge of the box. The hosts went into the break leading 1-0.
India made a couple of changes at the break and introduced Thapa and debutant Rahim Ali, and they looked good early in the second half. In the 53rd minute, Manvir found Sunil Chhetri into the box from the right but the Indian skipper’s header wasn’t on target.
India got their equaliser in the 60th minute thanks to Thapa. Chhetri hit superbly from distance and Limbu jumped and came up with a beautiful save, however, the rebound was there for the taking in the box and Thapa ran ahead to guide it in.
In the 79th minute, Nepal came close to getting ahead again but substitute Bishal Rai couldn’t generate any power after receiving a nice pass from the right. Four minutes later, Rahul Bheke headed a nice ball to Manvir during a set-piece but Limbu denied the Indian forward from up close. In injury time, Nepal created a great opportunity from the left but unfortunately for them their header wasn’t on target.
All in all, both teams fought neck-and-neck and a draw was a fair result. The second and last friendly will be played on Sunday at the same venue.