The Indian men’s football team played out a 1-1 draw against Nepal at the Dashrath Stadium in Kathmandu on Thursday. This was one of the two friendlies India are to play against their neighbours. India came from behind in the second half to earn a hard fought draw and they never looked completely in control of the proceedings. India struggled with their passing in the first half and Nepal grabbed the opportunity when India had a defensive lapse to score the first goal. However, second half substitute Anirudh Thapa showed great reflexes and presence of mind to score off a rebound to rescue India.
The Blue Tigers were unable to produce much substance throughout the match except for first 20 minutes of the second half. Nepal came into the game winning just one of their last six matches at home. They had defeated Chinese Taipei but lost to Maldives, Tajikistan, Kuwait, Jordan and Australia.
India and Nepal play their second friendly on September 5 at the same venue.
Anjan Bista found the back of the net in the 36th minute to put Nepal in the lead. It was a defensive lapse from India and Bista made the run, got to the ball first and scored the goal. Chinglensana Singh played the backpass to Gurpreet Singh Sandhu ahead of the goalkeeper. Bista saw the mistake and reached the ball before Gurpreet and the India No.1 was wrong-footed and could not catch the Nepalese and Bista had an open goal to aim at.
Throughout the first half, India were not able to string two good passes together and struggled to create anything meaningful on the pitch. Nepal seemed to have the strategy of playing long balls, something that India usually employs against stronger teams. Early on India did use the left flank with Brandon Fernandes and Akash Mishra to go up the pitch but nothing much came out of any of the moves.
Nepalese defenders did extremely well to mark Sunil Chhetri completely out of the first half and India did not have a single shot on target in the first half.
The second half began with Igor Stimac making two changes, where Anirudh Thapa came on for Brandon Fernandes and Rahim Ali got his debut as he replaced Glan Martins.
India showed much more urgency in the second half and looked sharper. In the 60th minute, Sunil Chhetri went for a stunning long-ranger but Kiran Limbu somehow got his hands to it to deny the India captain. However, the Nepal goalkeeper could not keep the ball out of play and Anirudh Thapa rushed to it and poked it home.
With India back on level terms, they looked a little more relaxed and started pushing higher up. With India attacking, Nepal were resigned to being behind the ball more and more. However, Nepal did take the game defensively and offensively to India and did try and push the Indian defenders.
In the 83rd minute, Thapa send in a fantastic free kick towards Rahim, who directed the header brilliantly into the middle. It missed everyone but Manvir kept the possession on the far post. He turned around and took a touch to make space and tried to go for a pass but ended up sending it out for a goal kick.
India were unable to produce anything of note thereafter even as Nepal pushed them towards the end.