Tribhuvan Army Football Club came from a goal down to thrash Sri Lanka Police Sports Club 5-1 in the playoff match of the AFC Cup South Asia Qualifying here at the Dasharath Stadium today.

Nawayug Shrestha scored a brace for the home team, while Santosh Tamang, Tanka Bahadur Basnet and Sudil Rai netted one goal each. Evans Asante scored the consolation goal for the visitors.

TAFC will now travel to India to play the second match of the playoff, against Banguluru FC at the GMC Athletic Stadium in Goa next week.

The Nepali Army team came close to scoring in the first minute of the match but Nawayug shot wide off the target, while SL Police goalkeeper Dinesh Mahendran saved Bibek Basnet's shot after he played one-two with skipper Bharat Khawas. Nawayug and Khawas failed to meet a cross from Tek Bahadur Budhathoki moments later, while Santosh Tamang's free kick from 30 yards out was brilliantly punched out by Mahendran in the 10th minute.

Khawas thought he opened the scoring in the 12th minute when he beat custodian Mahendran but his goal-bound shot was cleared by defender A Nicolas from goalline. Khawas saw his header denied by SL police defenders following a corner from Santosh Tamang moments later.

Sri Lankan side took the lead in the 28th minute against the run of the play.

Evans Asante collected a pass from Isaac Addevu and made a brilliant finish to put the visitors ahead. After Khawas missed two chances to level the scores in the 34th and 39th minutes, Santosh Tamang scored the equaliser four minutes before the first half when he slotted home from the edge of the area after he met the ball cleared by Sri Lankan defense line. Nawayug put the home team ahead two minutes later after he headed home following a pass from skipper Bharat Khawas.

TAFC added three more goals in the second half to record the comprehensive victory. Tanka Basnet extended the lead in the 50th minute when he found the back of the nets from close range on Nawayug's pass, while substitute Sudil Rai played one-two pass with Santosh Tamang before slotting home to make it 4-1 in the 83rd minute. Nawayug netted his second and team's fifth goal in the injury time to complete the rout.

The Martyrs Memorial 'A' Division League runners-up TAFC got the chance to participate in the playoff after league champions Machhindra FC failed to acquire Club License from the AFC.

The Asian football governing body has made Club License mandatory to participate in its tournament and TAFC are the lone Nepali side to get the Club License so far.

A version of this article appears in the print on April 8, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.