Subas Humagain, Kathmandu
The Nepali national football team made a winning start under the newly appointed coach Vincenzo Alberto Annese. Nepal defeated Laos 2-0 in the first match of Prime Minister Three Nations Cup at Dashrath Stadium on Wednesday.
Ananta Tamang scored for Nepal in the first half and Nawayug Shrestha doubled the lead early in the second half. Ananta scored through a header off Nabin Lama’s corner. Similarly, Nawayug controlled the long pass played by the goalkeeper in the middle of the Laos half and scored a spectacular goal with a volley. Apart from both goals, the Nepali team hardly challenged the opposing goalkeeper. In the second half, Ayush Ghalan wasted a golden opportunity to increase the lead.
Nepal made some aggressive moves at the beginning of the game. Nepal’s repeated attempts to enter the penalty area using Ayush on the left wing did not come to fruition. Although Bharat Khawas continuously created pressure off the ball on the right wing, he hardly had any impact when on the ball. Therefore, in the second half, coach Annese opted to use young Manish Dangi.
Nepal paid more attention to its defensive shape throughout the game when the opposition were on possession. Despite trying to be quick in the counter attack, it did not give good results due to the lack of coordination between the players. After the game, coach Annese himself said that there was not enough time to prepare and the players did not play as fast as expected.
In defense, the pair of Ananta Tamang and Rohit Chand once again managed to perform strongly. The ball barely reached captain Kiran Chemjong’s area but when threatned skipper looked alert in Laos’ repeated attempts. Coach Annese used a Bikash Khawas at left back and handed debutant Sanish Shrestha the role in right. Both the players have played as center back in club football and they were very reliable defensively. But they did very little when going forward.
The lack of coordination between the players was evident when Nepal could not keep possession of the ball in the midfield. Even in a normal pass exchanges, it seemed the players were not comfortable. Apart from that, the midfield failed to track the run in behind frequently. Coach Annese expressed that the result of today’s game is more pleasant than the performance as the team only had 2 days of full training.
‘We came together after a long time. This is the result of 2 days of full training. For me, the result of the first match was also important for my journey. We looked a bit slow in transition and counter attack. There are many young players in the team, so there is room for improvement,” he said.
Annese said the results were as expected from the players. ‘In terms of strategy, the performance was as I expected. Counter attack needs some improvement. In the attack, pressure should be applied from both the right and the left. We will work on all this in the coming days and now there is time before the next game,” he said.
Player of the match Ananta Tamang also said that the team needs improvement. ‘Today was not a satisfactory performance. We did not have enough time to prepare. As threr were new players in the team, we lacked coordination too. When the opposition kept more ball possession, we played narrow defensively and that worked,” he said.
Ananta understands that the team needs to work harder before the game against Bhutan. “We have not been able to give much problem in attack. For that, it is necessary to coordinate among the players. We now have time before the next game. Fortunately we scored two goals today, but it will not be enough on other day. It is necessary to keep the possession of the ball and improve in attack,” he said.
Michael Weiss, the coach of Laos, also said that Nepal played cautiously and paid more attention to the counter attack. ‘The home team played cautiously. They were more dependent on counter attacks. It’s a good start for Nepal’s coach, but today we deserved at least a draw,” he said.
“We have performed this after training for one day. We could not use the opportunity we had. On the other hand, Nepal’s performance cannot be said to be good. We also want to reach the finals and face Nepal again,” Vice added.
Coach Annese selected the team based on the performance of the A Division League. In this process, he said that he gave priority to the players he had seen on the field himself. The starting lineup he fielded against Laos also had a majority of experienced players. But it can be expected that he will gradually change the team with his plan.
Apart from Sanish, Annese gave debuts to three more players during the second half. On his arrival, Annese last week said that he would prioritize in giving expereince to young players. Annese did just that changing players continuously today and gave international experience to new faces.
Annese previously had emphasized on playing aggressive attacking football. After taking the lead against Laos, Nepal’s style of play was focused on preserving the lead rather than adding more. Annese has plenty of time to mould the new team into his plans. The team will train has 5 days before the match against Bhutan on Tuesday.
If Annese is to implement his plans, it is certain Nepal will change its style of play against Bhutan. The result of the experiment and performance against Laos could be handy as the coach prepares to show the real performance.