Nepal restores pride with 1-1 draw

KATHMANDU, July 29: Nepali football team restored lost pride on Thursday, five days after its 9-0 drubbing, with a 1-1 draw at home against mighty Jordan during the second leg of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers at Dasharath Stadium. 

Jordan, having hammered Nepal in the first leg at Amman, advanced into the group stage with a 10-1 win in aggregate.

To brush aside the humiliating first leg defeat, substitute Bharat Khawas scored the 80th minute goal to earn a draw, as Nepal came up from behind. Earlier, midfielder S. Murjan had put the visitors ahead in the 53rd minute. 

In the stadium with a capacity crowd, Khawas achieved his target when he unleashed a powerful shot from the box in a brilliant short pass by Sahukhala, who sprinted the ball a long way before setting it for Khawas.

The draw was no less than a victory for the Nepali team and it was a result not just of the effort of the team but support from the huge home crowd, the enthusiasm of the players and the heavy downpour which started during the first half and subsided in the middle of the second half. The downpour truly favored the Nepali players, disturbing Jordan players´ more than the home side.

"Not only do we know the soil of this stadium and country but the soil also knows us very well," an emotional Nepali captain, Sagar Thapa, said during a post match press conference, adding, "When we play with great support from fans on home ground we feel like we could play carrying all 11 opponent players on our shoulders without feeling tired. I would like to salute the fans."
According to Thapa, the support of spectators at the parapet was a challenge to heavy downpour and it finally gave up. The hooting of ´Nepal, Nepal´ resounded in the 18,000 capacity stadium right from the beginning until final whistle. 

"The spectators deserve the win. The crowd was fantastic and showed their pride," said Nepal´s British coach Graham Roberts. "The country has top celebrating spectators," the former England international said, adding, "We matched with Jordan today." 

Jordan, which made six changes in the starting lineup including four goal scorer Hasan Abdel Mahmoud and first choice goalie Amer Sh, felt the pressure and failed to coordinate well on the slippery ground. 
However, it was Jordan that took the lead with Murjan´s open header in a corner off A Deeb who had netted twice in the first leg match to stun goalie Kiran Chemjong. 

But Khawas, who came off the bench in the 66th minute as replacement for Biraj Maharjan, turned the hero for the team when he got back the equalizer. 

The goal aside, Nepal squandered about half a dozen scoring chances while Jordan crafted only a couple of attractive moves.
Sahukhala of Nepal, named in the starting lineup, put up a powerful and impressive show. However, he squandered a couple of chances as well. In the 44th minute he failed to hit the ball from the box after brilliantly beating two defenders. In the 35th minute also he was cleared by defenders in the box.

Nepal had nearly doubled the tally in the 46th minute when Anil Gurung´s low header rebounded from the base of the pole. Jumanu Rai hit inches wide from the six-yard box in the 81st minute and skipper Thapa´s header in Nirajan Khadka´s corner flicked by Rohit Chand sailed above the bar in the 35th. Khadka´s long range shot in the 71st minute sailed inches above bar. 
Anas Hijah´s powerful freekick shot for Jordan in the 14th minute was punched by goalie Chemjong, and Baha Suleiman´s volley in a rebound went wide. Similarly, defender Chand, as a last man, made a brilliant tackle to clear Suleiman in one-on-one position. 

"We dominated the show and every player played fantastic," said Roberts adding, "I have asked the boys to play from the soul for the country and the people and they did it. We also missed a couple of scoring chances." Roberts also lauded the home supporters. 
Birthday boy Khawas

Thursday was a special day for Bharat Khawas. The Nepal Police Club striker turned 20 on the day and also scored a goal to help the home team earn a 1-1 draw against Jordan. 

"I am very much happy today and I want to dedicate it to my teammates, coach and all football fans," Khawas told Republica. "The result was possible due to the support of all Nepalis and I would like to congratulate them." Khawas, who came in as a 66th minute replacement for Biraj Maharjan, scored the equalizer in the 80th minute. 

It was Khawas´ third goal for the national team in 10 international appearances.

"I made a telephone call to my mother after the match. My parents were very much delighted," Khawas said. 

"You did a great job, keep making the country proud," Khawas quoted his mother as telling him. "Probably this is the greatest day of my life as a player," he added.

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