Nepal takes Jordan to edge, but loses in penalties

Kathmandu, Mar. 1: The Nepali women’s football team lost to Jordan in penalties at the final of the 8th WAFF Women’s Championship in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Defending champion Jordan won the tournament for the sixth time in its eight editions.

In a match that dramatically ended 2-2, the officials prepared for the penalties as there was no provision for extra time (2*15 minutes). 

Jordan took the first shot at the penalties, and everybody was scoring until Jordan’s goalie Sherin AlShalabe saved Amrita Jaisi as she took the fourth penalty. However, Rouzbahan Fraij did not miss when she took the last shot for Jordan and won the final for her nation by defeating the travelling side Nepal by 5-3 in penalties. 

Since progressing to a final for the first time in the 2010 SAFF Women’s Championship, the Nepali women’s team, at the 8th WAFF Women’s Championship, was playing in its 11th final in an international competition. 

The team fell short in the finals once again and became the runner-up in an international tournament for the 11th time. However, it shows that the team has always strived for the trophy as reaching a final is never easy. 

Thousands of social media posts by Nepalis across the globe showering gratitude for reaching the finals showed how well the Nepali women’s team performed throughout the campaign. Moreover, taking Jordan to the edge while missing some great players was a great scene to witness for the Nepali fans.

Against Jordan, Nepal made three changes to the squad that faced Lebanon in the semi-final match on February 27. While Sabitra Bhandari missing the final due to contract obligations with French club En Avant Guingamp was known a day early, Anita Basnet and Anita KC were the other two who did not start against Jordan. They were replaced by Dipa Shahi, Rashmi Kumari Ghising and Sabita Rana Magar.

Goal machine Sabitra’s unavailability was felt throughout the match, but Nepal was doing great; furthermore, Nepal led first as Sabita’s shot, with a deflection from the opponent’s defender, reached the back of the net in the 29th minute.

And until the 68th minute, Nepal was in charge of the match. It was then that Preeti Rai was fouled, but as she cried in pain, the referee continued the match for around a minute. In the 70th minute, as a stretcher was called to carry injured Preeti out of the ground, Nepal stumbled a little.

Starting without the team’s best striker and losing the best midfielder in the crucial final quarter as the team led 1-0, Nepal conceded the first goal as Jordan equalised in the 74th minute. While Lana Feras gets Jordan back on equal grounds, Sarah Abu Sabbah made it 2-1 in the 88th minute.

From leading to trailing with a goal, Nepal was losing; however, coach Rajendra Tamang, shouting directions and suggestions to the players from the very first minute, ensured that the 11 players on the field were able to fight to the end. 

Thus, as the eight-minute added time started after the end of 90 minutes, Nepal started pressuring with everything. And it bore fruit as Nepal earned a penalty and Gita Rana converted it into the equaliser in 90+3 minutes which took the match to penalties.

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