Nepal beat Laos and advance to AFC Solidarity Cup final

Nepal beat Laos and advance to AFC Solidarity Cup final
Photos: AFC

Kuching: Goalkeeper Kiran Kumar Limbu made two dramatic saves as Nepal advanced to the final of the AFC Solidarity Cup Malaysia 2016 on Saturday evening with a 3-0 penalty shootout win over Laos following a 2-2 draw at the end of 120 minutes of normal play and extra-time at Negeri Stadium.

Limbu saved from Bounlien Bounpachack and Sitthideth Khanthavong before Chanthaphone Waenvongsoth pulled his spot kick wide of the target as a spot-kick perfect Nepal set up a meeting in Tuesday’s final with either Macau or Brunei Darussalam at Sarawak Stadium.

Xaisongkham Champathong gave Laos the lead after just 18 minutes before Bimal Gharti Magar levelled the scores with a header just two minutes into the second half, but a header from Ananta Tamang’s 104th minute looked to have sealed Nepal’s place in the final until Xaisongkham’s second three minutes from time.

But Limbu was the hero as Gurung Heman, Bikram Lama and Sujal Shreshtha all converted from 12 yards for the Nepalese.

It was a nerve-shredding end of a game in which Nepal made the brighter start, controlling midfield and dominating possession, but doing little to seriously threaten the Laos goal.

At the other end, Laos captain Sangvone Phimasen carved his way through the Nepal defence in the 17th minute when his surging run through the centre took him into the penalty area, allowing him to lay the ball off to Xaisongkham, but a last ditch tackle from Tamang denied what looked to be a certain goal.

Xaisongkham did not have long to wait to open the scoring as, less than a minute later, Laos were in front when the 23-year-old steered his downward header past Kiran Kumar Limbu from Sangvone’s cross from the right.

A cutting edge in attack was something Nepal lacked in the opening 45 minutes, and for all their dominance of possession both before and after Xaisongkham’s goal, Koji Gyotoku’s side struggled to create clear-cut opportunities.

Midway through the half Bharat Khawas wriggled his way through the defence only for his shot to lack the power to trouble Vieng Akhom Vilavong in the Laos goal. Three minutes later another weak effort from Anjan Bistan caused little concern. Khawas, meanwhile, saw his effort deflected wide when given a clear sight of goal after half an hour.

Two minutes after the restart, however, Nepal pulled level. Khawas’s burst of pace down the right found him a yard of space behind the defence and his cross was headed home by the on-rushing Magar.

Photos: AFC

Tamang then saw his header cleared off the line by Vongdalsene Sayoulasouk before Sitthideth, on in place of Santi Somphoupheth, hit the crossbar with a close-range effort. Deep into injury time, Laos went closer still when Xaisongkham saw his header cleared off the line by Tamang with Limbu nowhere to be seen, and the game went into extra-time.

As the first period drew to a close, substitute Heman curled his cross from wide on the right towards goal and Tamang – still in the penalty area following the breakdown of a corner routine seconds earlier – steered his header beyond Vieng Akhom.

But with three minutes left in the second added period, Laos pulled level when Xaisongkham powered his header high into the roof of the net to send the game to penalties.