Nepal edge Laos in semi-final thriller

Nepal advanced to the final of the Solidarity Cup after defeating Laos via a penalty shootout on Saturday in Kuching.

The Gorkhalis came from a goal behind to level matters at 1-1 after full time. Nepal then went ahead in extra time, but a 117th minute goal from Laos forced a penalty shootout.

This is where things fell apart for Laos, as they failed to score with any of their three attempts while Nepal converted them all, booking a place in the final.

While Nepal made a bright start, it was Laos who had the first dangerous attack in the 17th minute. Captain Sangvone Phimasen put the ball in space for Xaisongkham Champathong, who was nabbed in a great tackle in the box by Ananta Tamang.

But Xaisongkham did not have to wait much longer for his next opportunity, as 60 seconds later he latched onto a cross from Sangvone and headed the ball home to give Laos the lead.

The goal seemed to put Nepal on the back foot, as they struggled to create many clear-cut opportunities for the rest of the half.

However, whatever coach Koji Gyotoku said at the half-time break clearly worked, as the men from the mountains came out firing in the second half.

Bharat Khaswa found space down the right touchline and an accurate cross found the head of a flying Bimal Gharti Magar, who equalised in style in the 47th minute.

But Laos once again turned up the heat and almost edged ahead, with Sitthideth Khanthavong’s effort crashing into the crossbar from close range. Another chance for Laos went abegging when Xaisongkham’s header was desperately cleared off the line by Tamang.

Nepal thought they had scored the winner when Tamang scored in the closing stages of the first period of extra time. Finally being rewarded for his epic defensive efforts, Tamang guided his header past a hapless Vieng Akhom.

But Laos were not to be outdone and grabbed one back with just three minutes left to play. A cross from deep saw Xaisongkham score his second and force a penalty shootout.

There was only ever one winner in it from then on, with Nepal stopper Kiran Kumar Limbu being the star of the late show, pulling off two great saves to help the Gorkhalis reach their third final of the year.