Substitute Darshan Gurung scored a solitary goal in the second half as Dhangadhi Football Club defeated Pokhara Thunders 1-0 to earn a berth in the playoffs of the Khukri Nepal Super League here at the Dasharath Stadium today.

Gurung, who replaced Olawale Oladipo Afeez in the first half after the African recruit was injured, netted the winning goal in the 68th minute of the match.

Gurung found the back of the nets after he controlled the ball that Pokhara defenders failed to clear and gave no chance to goalkeeper Deep Karki. The custodian had denied Gurung a minute earlier but he was left stranded in the next move.

The win meant Dhangadhi moved to the top of the seven-team table with 10 points and are assured of the playoffs berth. Second-placed Biratnagar City FC and Kathmandu RayZrs have seven points each, while Butwal Lumbini FC and Pokhara are tied on five points.

Lalitpur City FC and FC Chitwan are at the sixth and seventh places with three and two points respectively.

Earlier, Dhangadhi came close to taking the lead in the 22nd minute but Afeez shot straight to defender from the crowded d-box after Pokhara failed to clear a free kick from Ashok Khawas. At the other end, Dhangadhi goalkeeper Kiran Chemjong denied Moussa Abba in one-on-one situation in the 26th minute and Ravi Paswan failed to utilise the rebound.

Nawayug Shrestha met the ball missed by Ajit Bhandari in the 40th minute but he failed to score in two attempts. His initial shot was blocked by a defender before goalkeeper Chemjong saved the ball in rebound.

Pokhara skipper Anil Gurung saw his shot go out after taking a deflection to Dhangadhi defender in 74th minute, while Dhangadhi goalie Limbu punched out Ramesh Dangal's header in injury time. Limbu was named the man of the match and he earned Rs 25,000, while his teammate Ashok got the emerging player's award along with Rs 10,000.

On Thursday, Lalitpur will play against Butwal Lumbini, while Kathmandu face Biratnagar City. After the league round, top four teams will make it to the playoffs and first and second places sides will contest in first qualifier. The third and fourth teams will play the eliminator.

The winners of the eliminator will play against the losing side of the first qualifier to decide the second finalists. The winners will be richer by Rs 3.5 million, while the runners-up will earn Rs 1.5 million.

A version of this article appears in the print on May 6, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.