M.C. Mohammed Rifnas scored an injury-time winner as Sri Lanka snatched an unlikely win over Nepal in the opening Group A match of the SAFF Suzuki Cup football tournament at the Greenfield Stadium here on Wednesday.
Just when the match seemed heading for a dreary draw, Rifnas cashed in on a defensive error to slot home the match-winner in the 94th minute.
The goal came following a quick counter from the Lankans as Nepalese were pressing hard for the elusive goal. The ball was relayed towards the Nepal box from the right flank and it landed in front of a Nepal defender, who failed to clear it. An unmarked Rifnas latched on to it to score from close range.
The result was harsh on Nepal as it had dominated for long periods. Rifnas’s goal came from one of the few moves woven by an insipid Sri Lankan side which was playing catch-up with its swifter and keener opponent for major part of the match.
Nepal settled into a fine rhythm quite early and pushed the rusty Lankans on the backfoot. Showing fine coordination and slick passing, Nepal was able to slice open the defence time and again but Sri Lankan goalkeeper Don Sujan Perera proved to be a stumbling block.
Rohit Chand had the first look at the Sri Lankan goal in the 11th minute when the midfielder connected a Bimal Magar cross from the right. However, Sri Lankan goalkeeper Don Sujan Perera tipped away the ball for a corner.
The goalkeeper again came to his side’s rescue when he again punched out a dangerous free-kick from Heman Gurang in the 21st minute. Nepal ended the first half on a promising note with Rohit Chand firing in a long ranger from 20 yards which just missed the target.
Nepal started the second half positively and created a chance early. Bimal Magar probably flunked the easiest of the chances his team got in the match when he failed to reach a precise cross from Anil Gurang. Bimal only had the goalkeeper to beat.
Jagajeet Shrestha and Bikram Lama were wasteful in their attempts as they blasted away their shots even as Nepal pressed hard for the goal. Sujan was again in thick of action as he tipped away a dangerous floater from Ranjit Dhimal midway through the second half.
After numerous raids from the opposition, Sri Lanka changed the ploy. It sat back and focused on counter attacks. The Lankans had their first look at Nepal goal in the 70th minute when Zarwan’s free-kick from 35 yards induced a fine save from Nepal goalkeeper. The next positive intent from Sri Lanka came during injury time and it resulted in the match-winner.
The result: Sri Lanka 1 (M.C. Mohammed Rifnas 94) bt Nepal 0.
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