Manang clinch Aaha-Rara Gold Cup

Kathmandu, March 14

NOC Manang Marshyangdi Club defeated Nepal Police Club 4-3 on penalties in the final of the 18th Aaha-Rara Gold Cup Football Tournament here at the Pokhara Stadium today.

The match was decided in tie-breaker after both the teams failed to score in regulation period and extra time.

With the win, MMC became the most successful club in the history of Aaha-Rara Gold Cup with six titles, while NPC are also six-time champions but their count also includes the Caravan Gold Cup. MMC received one million rupees along with the trophy, while NPC earned Rs 500,000.

In tie-breaker, Anjan Bista, Pujan Uparkoti, Suraj BK and Ranjan Bista scored for MMC, while Nishan Limbu’s shot was saved by NPC goalkeeper Roshan Khadka. For NPC, Bhola Nath Silwal, Hem Tamang and Buddha Bal Tamang converted from the spot, while Ajit Bhandari struck against the woodwork and MMC custodian Ashok Baral blocked a shot from Tej Tamang.

Earlier, MMC goalkeeper Ashok Baral saved Tej Tamang’s dangerous-looking corner kick in the 11th minute, while Manang came close to taking the lead in the 19th minute but Bimal Rana’s header on a free kick from skipper Kamal Shrestha went out taking a huge deflection on NPC defender Ajit Bhandari.

NPC forward Nir Kumar Rai muffed up an opportunity from inside the box in the 35th minute, while MMC’s Anjan Bista failed to connect properly on a cross from Luis Vidal moments later. NPC’s Buddha Bal Tamang could not meet a sublime cross from Tej Tamang in the 37th minute before MMC glovesman Ashok Baral collected the ball with ease.

Two minutes later, MMC skipper Kamal Shrestha made an acute cross into the box but Bimal Rana failed to control the ball and NPC custodian Roshan Khadka saved his team from going down.

Ajit Bhandari rescued NPC in the 43rd minute with a goalline clearance to save Bimal Rana’s acrobatic attempt on MMC captain Kamal Shrestha’s free-kick at a time when goalkeeper Roshan Khadka had come out of his position.

After the break, Manang goalkeeper Ashok Baral made a brilliant save to deny Nir Kumar Rai in the 49th minute, while MMC’s Anjan Bista saw his overhead kick sail inches over the bar in the 60th minute.

Fed by Luid Vidal, Bimal Rana of Manang shot over the woodwork in the 68th minute.

NPC’s Nir Kumar Rai’s long range attempt went over the bar in the 77th minute, while Anjan Bista wasted a chance at the other in the 89th minute.

Both the teams created a couple of chances in the extra time but none of them were able to find the back of the nets. MMC coach Fuja Tope lauded his players for putting up a good show throughout the tournament. “The boys played as per the expectation and the players also kept their calm during penalty shootout,” he added.

NPC coach Ananta Thapa rued the missed opportunities in the regulation period and extra time. “We created a number of chances but the players could not utilise them,” said the former national team midfielder.

“Win and loss are part of the game and I have taken it normally. And any team can win or loss when the match goes to penalty shootout,” he added.

Ajit Bhandari of NPC was declared the player of the tournament and he received Aprilia scooter. MMC dominated the individual awards with goalkeeper Ashok Baral, defender Suraj BK, midfielder Nitin Thapa, forward Anjan Bista and coach Fuja Tope winning the honours. Five players — NPC duo Bharat Shah and Nir Kumar Rai, MMC’s Anjan Bista, Ruslan Three Star Club’s Sushan Shrestha and Sahara Club’s Tridev Gurung — shared the highest scorer’s award after they were tied on two goals.

Defending champions Ruslan Three Star Club won the Fair Play award.

A total of 10 teams took part in the tournament organised by Sahara Club under the sponsorship of Aaha and Rara noodles of Himshree Foods Pvt Ltd. National Sports Council Member Secretary Ramesh Kumar Silwal, All Nepal Football Association President Karma Tsering Sherpa, Himshree Foods Executive President Surya Bahadur KC, Nepal Sports Journalists Forum (Gandaki) President Ekraj Giri and Sahara Club President Keshav Bahadur Thapa among others handed over the prizes to the winners.

Sahara Club General Secretary Ramji Prasad Adhikari said the saving from the tournament would be used to run the academy. Currently, 24 children from 15 districts are in the Sahara Academy and they are receiving education along with football training.

Sahara Club had expected the saving of two million rupees from the tournament.