Lacklustre India go down to gritty Nepal

Lacklustre India go down to gritty Nepal

Lacklustre India go down to gritty Nepal

Defending champions India dished out yet another lacklustre performance to go down 1-2 against hosts Nepal but still managed to sail through to the semifinals of the SAFF Football Championships here today.

The six-time champions were clearly the inferior side in their last Group A match at a packed Dasarath Stadium and they were lucky to make it to the last four stage after Pakistan beat Bangladesh 2-1 in another simultaneous match.

For Nepal, who were cheered by a vociferous home crowd, Anil Gurung and Jumanu Rai scored in the 70th and 81st minutes while Syed Rahim Nabi pulled one back for India in the stoppage time (92nd minute) with an impressive side volley.

India and Pakistan ended on four points behind Group A toppers Nepal -- who garnered seven points from two wins and one draw -- but Wim Koevermans' men qualified for the semifinals as group runners-up having beaten Pakistan in the head-to-head encounter.

A lucky India had beaten Pakistan 1-0 in their campaign opener thanks to an own goal by their rival skipper before escaping with a 1-1 draw against Bangladesh with captain Sunil Chhetri scoring an injury time equaliser.

According to tournament rules, if two teams are on equal points in the group stage, head-to-head result will first decide which team will go through to the next stage and goal difference rule comes to play only after this. In case of India, since they have beaten Pakistan earlier, there is no need to look at goal difference.

In the semifinals, India will play the Group A winners which will be decided after tomorrow's match between Maldives and Afghanistan, who are on six points each after winning both their earlier matches.

Today's result was the only second win for Nepal against India in 12 matches in all-time head-to-head contest, according to FIFA records. The earlier win by Nepal was through penalty shootout in the 1993 SAF Games in Dhaka after the two sides were locked 2-2 after regulation and extra time.