By a Staff Reporter
Kathmandu (HamroKhelkud) – In an evenly poised encounter at the Dasharath Stadium, Anjan Bista’s record-equalling goal for Nepal resulted in a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Laos in the first leg of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers first round.
Anjan’s header, courtesy of Arik Bista’s corner kick in the 49th minute, not only brought Nepal back into the game but also solidified his position in history. With this goal, Anjan joined the ranks of Hari Khadka and Nirajan Rayamajhi, sharing the record for the most goals scored for the Nepal Men’s Football Team. This goal marked his 13th for Nepal, achieved in his 60th game since his national debut against the Philippines in 2014.
A challenging first half for Nepal saw Laos take the lead with a brilliant goal by their captain, Bounphachan Bounkong. Bounkong capitalized on a defensive lapse, expertly converting a pass from Chony Wenpaserth, slipping the ball past Nepal’s goalkeeper Kiran Chemjong and sending defenders Ananta Tamang and Rohit Chand to the floor.
Nepal, initially struggling to create clear opportunities, witnessed close attempts from Laken Limbu, whose shot narrowly missed the target in the 13th minute, and Gillespye Jung Karki, whose effort from Awas Lamichhane’s cross failed to find the mark in the 37th minute. The second half saw Nepal stepping up their efforts after the equalizing goal.
Laken Limbu blocked Kydavone Souvanny’s shot in the 54th minute and Rohit Chand’s header was expertly stopped by the Laos goalkeeper in the 61st minute. Anjan’s other header from Laken Limbu’s cross in the 82nd minute saw Laos’ goalkeeper stand firm, denying Nepal the winning goal.
Nepal head coach Vincenzo Alberto Annese handed Machhindra FC youngster Utsab Rai his debut in national colours as he took Awas Lamichhane’s place on the pitch at the start of the second half. Amrit Shrestha and Sanjeeb Bista, who have been called up for the first time, remained on the bench.
Nepal and Laos will now turn their attention to the return fixture in Laos on October 17th. The winners of the match will book their place in the second round of FIFA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.