Host Nepal made a remarkable start in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup qualifiers as it beat Northern Mariana 6-0 in the match played at Dasharath Stadium, Kathmandu on Saturday.
Nepali striker Bharat Khawas shined in the match as he scored a hat-trick with his debut for the day in the second minute of the game. The first goal of the match sent cheers throughout the ambience of crowded Stadium with thousands of Nepali supporters howling "Nepal! Nepal!"
Another Gurkha striker Santosh Sahukala doubled the score in the 29th minute of the game before Khawas wrapped the first half with his second goal.
Dominating Nepali supporters waved national flags and chorused songs throughout the game while their squad humiliated Northern Mariana players, who was just debuting their first ever AFC match.
In the second half, Nepali players sent vibes of frustration to the Mariana coach as they doubled the score as Nepali mid fielders Raju Tamang scored a penalty, while Sandip Rai added one more before Khawas scored his third goal and packed up the game 6-0.
Nepal, who has been drawn in Group D of the qualifiers, reached the semi-finals in the first edition of the Championship in 2006. Since then, Nepal has never marched passed the group stage of the Asian tournament.
While Saturday's game ignited hopes among Nepali football fans, the country has yet to face its prime rival Palestine, who had defeated Bangladesh 3-0 in the previous match.
The winners of five groups of the qualifiers and two of the best runner-ups will qualify for the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup finals, where they would be joined by host Maldives. Twenty Asian countries are vying for the top seven positions, with DPR Korea standing as the defending champion.
Nepal will next take on its group members Bangladesh and Palestine on Monday and Wednesday respectively.