The Indian football team was held to a 1-1 draw by Nepal in an international friendly at the Dasharath Stadium in Kathmandu on Thursday.
Playing in front of a partial crowd for the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak, the home team took the lead in the 36th minute through Anjan Bista. Midfielder Anirudh Thapa, however, helped India draw level at the hour mark.
Playing a competitive match for the first time since the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in June, the Indian football team looked rusty in the initial minutes of the match.
India managed to create a handful of half chances but none decisive enough to test the Nepali defence.
Their opponent’s slow start allowed Nepal to find their rhythm and they came up with a few attacks of their own as the game progressed. Winger Ayush Ghalan looked the standout player for the home team.
Nepal’s persistence soon paid off as Anjan Bista capitalised on a defensive error to hand Nepal the lead in the 36th minute.
Chinglensana Singh’s backpass to goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu lacked power which allowed the Nepali forward to get to the ball and slot home the opener.
India began the second half with more purpose and it soon reflected on the pitch with Sunil Chhetri keeping Nepal custodian Kiran Limbu under pressure.
Sunil Chhetri first saw his header from a tight angle go just wide of the near post. Moments later, Limbu had to step out of his penalty area to thwart an Indian move.
The pressure eventually paid off as Chhetri was allowed enough time and space to turn and shoot from just outside the Nepal penalty box.
While Limbu did deny Chhetri with an acrobatic save, the Nepali -- who plys his trade with Punjab FC in the I-League -- couldn’t stop Anirudh Thapa from scoring with the second chance.
Though both the sides came close to adding to their tally, neither could make their chances count and the game ended at 1-1.
The Indian football team will return to Dasharath Stadium on Sunday to face Nepal in their second international friendly match.