Taiwan on Thursday fell to another 2-0 defeat to Nepal in their FIFA World Cup Asia Group B qualifier at the Jaber al-Ahmad International Stadium in Kuwait City after a harsh handball decision resulted in them falling behind right at the start of the match, a position from which they could not recover.
Nepal were awarded a free-kick in the third minute just outside the penalty area. The delivery into the area bounced off Taiwan defender Cheng Hao, and while the video replay was inconclusive, the South Korean referee awarded a penalty-kick, judging that it was Cheng’s hand that had touched the ball.
It was a tough decision for the side to take, and Nepal forward Anjan Bista duly scored from the penalty spot, sending Taiwan goalkeeper Derek Shih the wrong way.
Photo courtesy of the Kuwait FA via the CTFA
Bista had also netted a brace in Taipei in 2019 in the sides’ previous Group B encounter.
Taiwan needed to fight back, but the players failed to link up and too many wayward passes snuffed out any chance of an equalizer.
Taiwan had an opportunity in the 65th minute from a free-kick, but striker Lee Mao hit it straight at the Nepal wall.
Taiwan captain Wu Chun-ching was felled by a robust tackle in the 73rd minute and was carried off on a stretcher. For the next 10 minutes Taiwan played with only 10 men and Nepal took full advantage when Nawayug Shrestha evaded his marker to connect with Suman Aryal’s cross and fire high into the net in the 80th minute.
Thereafter Taiwan mounted repeated forays into the Nepal half, but they could not beat goalkeeper Kiran Chemjong.
Taiwan coach Henry Von at the post-match news conference said that he believed the officials had cost his team the game.
He criticized the referee for giving the penalty after only three minutes.
“That decision was very controversial. The result affected the proceedings for the rest of the game,” Von said.
He said that his players needed time to adjust to the hot and dry conditions in Kuwait, and Nepal were better prepared after traveling to the Middle East 10 days earlier to play a friendly.
“Still, I give thanks to these young players for their determined play and fighting spirit, they did not give up until the final whistle,” Von said.
Asked about Wu’s injury, Von said: “At first we thought that it was only minor and could be quickly treated, but it proved to be serious. Then we had some problems in the technical area and it cost us when Nepal scored their second goal.”
“The decision in the third minute did indeed impact the match and the outcome. It forced us to change our game plan, to make adjustments to our strategy ... but we could not create many chances and were unable to get a goal,” Wu said.
“I am the veteran on the team with the most international experience, so I had to lead by example with the fighting spirit as the conditions were quite tough for us,” he said.
“Our national team players have to work to improve our offense. Myself and several others are getting older and Taiwan will go through a transitional period. In the coming years, we have to pass the torch to the youngsters, while they must enhance their skills and gain more experience,” he added.
Von apologized to the supporters back home.
“Fans in Taiwan watched the match late at night into the early hours, but we did not get a win. I have let my country down and I will take responsibility for losing this game,” he said.
Taiwan on Monday lost their seventh consecutive qualifying match for next year’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar, falling 1-5 to Australia in Kuwait. The loss means that Taiwan will finish last in the five-team Group B with one match left to play in the second round of Asian qualifiers on Tuesday next week against Kuwait. Australia lead the group with six straight wins and appear certain to clinch the top spot and an automatic berth in the next qualification round. Taiwan head coach Henry Von said his team showed fighting spirit against the group’s best team, improving from their 0-2
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