Shillong, Feb 13 (IANS) A resurgent Nepal are determined to be the new champions of the 12th South Asian Games (SAG) women’s football event after beating Sri Lanka 4-0 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Saturday.
“We are confident Nepal will be the new (South Asian Games women’s football) champions after the girls’ brilliant performance on the ground but we still need to improve our midfield,” Nepal’s assistant coach Kumar Katuwal told IANS.
Nepal who have comfortably beaten Bangladesh, Maldives, Sri Lanka and had a goalless draw against defending champions India are at the top of the table with 10 points.
India who are placed third will have to beat Bangladesh to reach the final and defend their South Asian Games title on Monday.
“We are hoping to meet India in the finals again as they are a much stronger side than Bangladesh. But the girls are prepared to face any of them as team morale is high and looking for a big win,” Katuwal said.
Noting that a cash reward waits for Nepal’s women’s soccer team if they emerged victoriously, Katuwal said, “The Nepal government will reward five to six lakh Nepali rupee to each woman footballer besides a raise in their salaries.”
Commenting on the performance of the Indian team, the Nepal coach said, “India is a strong team. I do not know what will happen in this tournament, but one thing is that there are too many old players in their (India) team. Besides, their defence too is weak.”
In fact, India captain Oinam Bembem Devi had decided to retire after the South Asian Games. “We too have a couple of old players like India in our midfield but our defence line is very good,” Katuwal said.
Nepal striker Sabitra Bhandari scored two goals against Sri Lanka at the start of the match. The islanders lost all their league matches in the championship.
Nepal got an early 13th-minute lead after Sri Lankan defender A.S. Perera headed across from Nepal midfielder Deepa Rai into her own goal. The resurgent Nepal side dominated throughout the match, plundering past the Sri Lankan midfield and defence to fire away shots on goal.
In the second half, Sabitra Bhandari penetrated the Sri Lankan defence in the 52nd minute before finding the roof of the net to make it 2-0 for Nepal. Bhandari’s second goal came in the 63rd minute with a chipped ball over Sri Lanka goalkeeper Wijerathna to put Nepal in total control.
Three minutes later, Wijerathna made a brilliant save to stop a shot by Dipa Rai. But she was beaten in the 80th minute when Sapna Lama scored following a rebound off the woodwork as Nepal finished with a 4-0 scoreline.