Kathmandu: Afghanistan beat hosts Nepal by a solitary goal to enter the final of the SAFF Football Championship, here on Sunday.
In a highly entertaining first semi-final, the home team played their heart out, but Sanjar Ahmadi did what mattered the most – scored the winner in the 10th minute of the match.
Afghanistan will meet the winner of the second semi-final between India and the Maldives on Wednesday.
Nepal had their chances, including back-to-back penalties awarded in the 88th minute under controversial circumstances, but Afghanistan goalkeeper Mansur Fagiryar saved Rohit Chand’s spot-kick on both occasions.
The penalty was awarded when substitute Bimal Gharti Magar collided with Mansur and fell down which prompted the Saudi Arabia referee ASAM Idham Mohammed to point at the dreaded spot.
Chand’s first kick was brilliantly saved by Mansur diving to his left, but the assistant referee pointed out that the goalie had moved from his position before the kick was taken.
Immediately another spot-kick was awarded, but Chand’s feeble shot was saved by a diving Mansur. Once the match was over, it was difficult to watch the crestfallen Nepal players who got a standing ovation from their supporters.
Buoyed by a partisan home crowd of 20,000, Nepal dominated the proceedings for the better part of the match, but failed to find the net. Nepal forwards Anil Gurung and Jumanu Rai did try to make decisive inroads but failed to execute their plans in the attacking third.