Rup Narayan Dhakal

Pokhara, January 22:

Basanta Thapa scored an equaliser and then netted the golden goal as Manang Marsyangdi Club beat Mahendra Police Club 3-2 in the final of the Aha Gold Cup Football Tournament here today.

The match went into the extra time after both the teams were locked at 2-2 in their stipulated 90 minutes, and Basanta Thapa headed home the winner in the second minute of the extra time, to make it two in a row for MMC over the policemen. The defending champions took lead through Tashi Tshering in the 32nd minute, when the midfielder’s powerful strike from the edge of the D-Box kissed the net leaving MPC goalkeeper Ritesh Thapa stranded.

The Policemen got an equaliser through Deepak Poudel in the 42nd minute. The MPC defender made a spectacular run when he took the ball alone from the centre line dodging as many as four MMC players before firing the ball into the net. The goal, most probably the best of Poudel’s career, also earned him the best player of the tournament award.

MPC took a 2-1 lead in the 64th minute when Deepak’s brother Dipendra found the top of the net following a pass from Ramesh Budhathoki, who was fed by Hari Khadka from the right flank. Basanta Thapa scored the equaliser for MMC in the 77th minute following a pass from substitute Sunil Subedi, who had replaced Rajendra Tamang in the second half.

In the second minute of the extra time, Thapa scored the golden goal through a header on Sagar Thapa’s free kick. “We have succeded in bringing back MMC on track,” said Basanta Thapa after the match. MMC had opened the year with a victory in the second Hridayendra Cup in Itahari earlier this month, but Thapa was not part of the team because of injury.

The Policemen would have won the title this time, had Jumanu Rai and Ramesh Budhathoki not wasted easy scoring opportunities in the 84th and 86th minute respectively.

Delighted with the second win in a month, MMC coach Tshering Lopsang said his boys could not perform well in the first half. “We had to wait for the golden goal to clinch the final. “ he added. “We lost today only because of the strikers. They failed to capitalise on the opportunities they got,” said the losing team coach, Yogumber Suwal.

Ganesh Thapa, president of All Nepal Football Association, DIG Amar Bikram Nemwang, and Basanta Thakali, president of Sahara Club, gave away prizes to the winners.

Meanwhile, ANFA president Ganesh Thapa handed over Rs 50,000 to Sahara Club president Basanta Thakali, for running a football academy.