Gurung fires Nepal ‘Red’ into final

Kathmandu, March 13:

Anil Gurung silenced critics with two goals in two minutes to guide Nepal ‘Red’ into the final of the Prime Minister Cup Invitational Football Tournament at the Dasharath Stadium today.

The home team will now take on Sri Lanka — who thumped Arambagh Kriasangha of Bangladesh in the first semi-final on Thursday — in Saturday’s final. The match will be Nepal’s third in four days. On Wednesday, Nepal ‘Red’ defeated Pakistan 1-0 in the quarter-final.

After a goalless first half which saw the Thai team dominating the field with Nepal ‘Red’ making a couple of weak attempts, Gurung scored his first goal of the tournament in the 81st minute bringing some 10,000 spectators into jubilations. Gurung scored from six yards after Anjan KC’s long cross dropped just in front of him. The cheers from the crowd had not finished yet and Gurung doubled the lead from six yards.

The second goal came after Ju Manu Rai took the ball inside the area from the left flank beating as many as three players and lost the control over the ball but Gurung was there to fire past JW goalkeeper Kumkaew Sopa. Gurung had been under severe criticism after he failed to score in previous matches despite getting enough opportunities.

The win, however, proved costly for the home team as both Ju Manu and Gurung were carried off the field. While Ju Manu — who fell to the pitch after losing control over the ball — was taken to the hospital for further check up, Gurung limped to the players’ box.

Chun Bahadur Thapa substituted Ju Manu in the 86th minute, while Nirajan Rayamajhi came in place of Gurung. Ranjit Shrestha replaced Vishan Gauchan as Nepal made three substitutions in four minutes.

Earlier, Nepal played the entire first half under pressure and could not make threatening moves on the Thia goal. Nepal ‘Red’ goalkeeper Bikash Malla was up to his mark as he made at least three fine saves. The visitors made the first attempt on goal with Malla saving skipper Narogngdch Sangchom’s header in the seventh minute.

Fed by Bijay Gurung, Anjan KC made a brilliant cross inside the box but Thai goalkeeper Sopa avoided the threat with a diving save. The JW team forced Malla to a brilliant one-handed punch when Jeerayut Maneekode made a powerful strike from eight yards.

Ju Manu should have scored in the 37th minute counter attack but the versatile striker headed wide in an unattended post following a long pass from Sandeep Rai. The JW Team almost took lead in the first half injury time but Nepali custodian Malla denied Narongsak Mongkonhirun with a diving save.

The hosts proved unlucky in the 60th minute when Vishan Gauchan made an accurate cross into the box but Anil Gurung’s header hit the cross bar and rebounded to play. JW defenders cleared the ball after Ju Manu could not reach to it.

Bikash Malla made yet another acrobatic save two minutes later to deny Jeerayut Maneekode, while Vijay Gurung failed to reach Vishan Gauchan’s pass inside the six-yard box.

JW coach Kristsad Piandit accused referee biasness for the team’s loss. “We didn’t find it an international tournament rather it was like a friendly match,” he said. “We would not have conceded the goals had the referees not taken side,” he added. At the post-match press conference, JW Team manager Wisit Korworrakul demanded the CD of the match.

Nepal ‘Red’ coach Yogamber Suwal ruled out any foul play by the referees and said minor errors were parts of the game. Suwal admitted his players were not up to the mark in the first half but recovered well in the latter half. “It was a dull game in the first half,” he said. Asked about the final, the coach said the team was prepared to face Sri Lanka.