Saturday 2 March 2013

Challenge Cup baptism of fire for Northern Mariana Islands

The Northern Mariana Islands were outclassed on their full Asian Football Confederation debut as they were on the wrong end of a 6-0 thumping from hosts Nepal in their opening Challenge Cup group D qualifier. Bharat Khawas scored a hat-trick with Santosh Sahukhala, Raju Tamang and Sandip Rai adding further goals.

Outpaced...Lucas Knecht (no. 4) can't catch the Nepali striker
The non-FIFA side got off to the worst possible start when, after just 4 minutes, Nepal Army striker Bharat Khawas fired beyond Johann Noetzel to send the packed Dasharath Stadium into raptures. The hosts continued to press and 5 minutes later Santosh Sahukhala saw his goal-bound effort well blocked by Lucas Knecht. The strike pair were causing the Northern Mariana defence a host of problems and in the 14th minute Khawas released a quick pass to Sahukhala but he shot straight into the hands of Noetzel. 3 minutes later Saga Thapa headed narrowly over from a corner-kick before, in the 24th minute, Jangdip Rai struck the bar from another corner with Noetzel scooping up Rohit Chand’s rebound. The pressure paid off on the half-hour when Jagjeet Shrestha swung a cross into the 6-yard box and Sahukhala stooped to head the ball home for 2-0. In the 41st minute the rampant hosts added a 3rd goal when Khawas eluded Dan Westphal in the box to score his 2nd of the game and make it 3-0 at the break.

Helpless...captain Miller (no.7) tries to block a cross
Bhola Silwal wasted a good opening 4 minutes after half-time and in the 51st minute Khawas went even closer with the crossbar denying him a hat-trick. Noetzel made a good save to deny Shrestha moments later but when the Friends Club midfielder was upended in the box by William Dunn with 60 minutes played Raju Tamang confidently dispatched the resulting penalty to make it 4. In the 68th minute defender Sandip Rai managed to get forward and add the 5th goal, sweeping the ball home from close range. Khawas finally secured his hat-trick just 4 minutes after Rai's goal as he turned Sahukhala's pass beyond the helpless Noetzel. In the 80th minute substitute Amar Dongol came close to a 7th goal but he headed Biraj Maharjan's fine cross just over. The Northern Mariana Islands failed to register a chance as they were completely outplayed in Kathmandu, although a 6-0 loss represents a better scoreline than many had anticipated.

The non-FIFA side face an equally difficult task on Monday when they meet Nepal’s likely challengers for the top spot, Palestine. Kick-off is at 14:00 (08:15 UK) and we’ll provide live updates via our Twitter service @NonFIFAfootball.

Match information – 

Score: Nepal 6 – 0 Northern Mariana Islands

Goals: Bharat Khawas 4’, 41’, 72' Santosh Sahukhala 30’ Raju Tamang 60’ (pen.) Sandip Rai 68'

Northern Mariana Islands XI: Noetzel; Dunn, Knecht, Swaim, Westphal [Zapanta 79']; Jeon, McKagen [Yobech 46'], Barry, Adachi [Joyner 69'], Loken; Miller.

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