MMC, Sahara set for title battle

Pokhara, January 27

Defending champions Laxmi Hyundai Manang Marshyangdi Club and hosts Sahara Club of Pokhara will face each other in the final of the 15th Aaha Rara Gold Cup here at the Pokhara Stadium on Saturday.

Both four-time champions MMC and the 12th edition winners Sahara were confident of winning the vowed of claiming the title. Sahara coach Kiran Shrestha, who termed MMC as one of the tough teams, said his side would go for a win and team's strategy depend upon the situation of the game. "Our target will be to win the tournament and we will make our plans as per the match scenario," said Shrestha, who was successful in adopting defensive approach against Tribhuvan Army Club in the semi-finals.

Sahara defeated TAC 4-3 on penalties after holding them to a goalless draw in the regulation period of 90 minutes and 30 minutes of added time. Foreign recruits Ajayi Martins and Boby Odongo as well goalkeeper Sujit Gurung, skipper Uttam Gurung, Bishnu Gurung, Pradeep Gurung and Shiva Subedi are likely to create headache for the defending champions MMC.

MMC, who edged past CMG Club Sankata 1-0 in the semis, are on a high and coach Chhiring Lopsang Gurung claimed that his side would walk away with the trophy. "We defeated Sahara in the second Tuborg Hetauda Gold Cup. The team spirit is high and we won’t have problem as the team is studded with majority of national team members," Gurung said.

Players like skipper Anil Gurung, Sujal Shrestha, Biraj Maharjan, Bishal Rai, Bikram Lama, Rohit Chand and Nirajan Malla could make differences for the MMC, who have made it to the finals for the 10th time and winning the title on four occasions. In two previous finals appearances, Sahara won the title once.

The road to final is contrasting for the two teams with the hosts finding it hard compared to their opponents. MMC, who had a first-round bye, beat Dharan FC 4-1 in the quarter-finals and edged past Sankata 1-0 in the semis, while Sahara saw off Far-west-XI 4-0 in the first round, outplayed Sikkim United 4-2 on penalties in the quarters and defeated TAC 4-3 in spot kick battle in semis.