Kuching: Nepal coach Koji Gyotoku hailed his team’s spirit and determination as they booked their place in the final of the AFC Solidarity Cup Malaysia 2016 with a 3-0 penalty shootout over Laos at Negeri Stadium on Saturday evening.
The Nepalese prevailed at the end of a seesaw game that saw both teams lead, with Laos scoring three minutes from the end of extra-time through Xaisongkham Champathong to take the game into a shootout following a 2-2 draw.
Goalkeeper Kiran Kumar Limbu saved penalties from Bounlien Bounpachack and Sitthideth Khanthavong before Chanthaphone Waenvongsoth pulled his spot kick across the face of goal to take Nepal into the deciding match, where they will meet either Macau or Brunei Darussalam on Tuesday evening.
“It was a very tough game, our players played 120 minutes and this is our third match but in the last five months we had no friendly matches so the players were tired and heavy, but they didn’t stop running,” said the Japanese coach.
“We have one more match, the final and we need to prepare for our next match. It’s a very nice experience for me and for the players also to reach the final. I came to Nepal to develop Nepal football and this is on the way for the future. I think it’s very nice experience.
“This result is good, not so bad. Sometimes we were lucky, and sometimes we weren’t lucky. The players played better than before and this is good for us.”
Xaisongkham gave Laos the lead after just 18 minutes but two minutes into the second half Bimal Gharti Magar levelled for Nepal before the game went into extra-time. Ananta Tamang gave Nepal the lead in the final minute of the first half of extra-time, but Xaisongkham’s header three minutes from the end took the game to penalties.
Gurung Heman, Bikram Lama and Sujal Shreshtha were all successful from the spot for the south Asian nation as Laos coach Valakone Phomphakdy rued his team’s misfortune.
“We have not enough time to rest, but I saw that my players played well today,” he said. “I’m satisfied that all the players fought until the last minute and they showed our opponent that if we fight until the last minute we can score and draw. This is football and I respect the result and we have lost. But I’m not sorry, we just missed some points.
“We didn’t expect it to go to penalties because we tried to play for a decision in 90 minutes or in additional time so we didn’t concentrate on penalties. I was worried about our players (in the shootout) because I could see most of them had lost energy and in the end some of them had lost confidence. But this is football.”