MALE, Maldives – Nepal marked its position in the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) final for the first time since its inception in Lahore, Pakistan, in 1993.
After a last-minute penalty from Anjan Bista, Nepal secured a 1-1 draw with Bangladesh in their final group stage match of the sub-continental tournament at the Malé National Football Stadium on Wednesday.
To be knocked out of the group stage after scoring a goal in the eighth minute, Nepal had a miraculous chance in the 88th minute when Bista’s forceful kick brought them into the final for the first time in 28 years.
Nepal won the first two matches, 1-0 against defending hosts and champions Maldives and 3-2 against Sri Lanka, and came into confidence with six points. While even a draw would have preserved Nepal’s place in the final, Bangladesh – fourth in the standings with four points – needed an unmissable victory to secure a place in the final.
Bangladesh succeeded in the eighth minute when Suman Raza came out of the crowded area to send the ball out of reach of goalkeeper Kiran Kumar Limbu.
Unlike seven in the past, five teams from India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka are participating in the current edition of the game. Bhutan and Pakistan did not participate in the tournament.