Nepal defeated Bhutan 2-1 to defend the U-23 football tournament title to bring the 13th South Asian Games curtain down here at the Dasharath Stadium on Tuesday .
Abhishek Rijal and Sunil Bal scored for the home team, while skipper Chencho Gyeltshen scored for Bhutan. With the second straight and fourth overall title in SA Games, Nepal took the gold medal tally to record 51.
On Tuesday, Rijal opened the scoring for the home team in the 16th minute with his third goal of the tournament.
Rijal collected a long throwin from Bikash Khawas and made a quick turn to slot home from close range. Rijal had also scored in the group stage matches against Bhutan and Maldives.
Bhutan levelled the scores in the 36th minute silencing the sold-out 15,000 crowd at the stadium when skipper Gyeltshen outpaced as many as two defenders and slammed home past diving goalkeeper Bikesh Kuthu.
Bal restored the lead in the 53rd minute with a header following a free kick from Ananta Tamang.
Despite a few attempts from either team, neither of them found the net and the match ended at 2-1 after a close call near the goal line of the homeside in stoppage time.
With Nepal’s win, Maharjan became the first Nepali to win gold as both player and coach. He was a member of the Nepal squad when they won gold at the 1993 edition of the Games in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
“When we won in 1993, it was the only gold for Nepal at the Games,” he said. “However, levelling Pakistan’s record of four gold medals and marking the 51st for Nepal at home has its own significance.”
According to Maharjan, Nepal’s performance throughout the tournament was better than he expected.
Nepal had also won football gold medal in 1984, 1993 and 2016 editions of the regional sporting extravaganza.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli addressed the gathering through teleconference and expressed his happiness for the grand success of the SA Games.
The football final was followed by glittering closing ceremony that saw a set of 150 drones forming the images of national flag, map, Pashupatinath temple, Gautam Buddha 13th SAG 2019 and its mascot, among others.
The most successful Nepali player of the 13th SA Games with nine medals including four golds, swimmer Gaurika Singh carried the national flag at the march-pass.
Deputy PM Ishwor Pokhrel brought the curtains down before the performance from various groups including dances from Nepali Army’s khukuri troop, school children and Guruju Paltan.
Youth and Sports Minister Jagat Bahadur Sunar thanked all the athletes, team managers and officials and National Sports Council Member Secretary Ramesh Kumar Silwal thanked all the stakeholders to make South Asian Games a grand success.