Parbat hands NPC victory over APF

KATHMANDU: Defending champions Nepal

Police Club (NPC) climbed atop the table with a 2-0 win over Nepal Armed Police Force (APF) Club while Machhindra Football Club held Laxmi Hyundai Manang Marshyangdi Club (MMC) to a 1-1 draw pushing them in the second place at the Martyrs Memorial San Miguel A Division League here today.

NPC (18 points) are one point ahead of MMC as both sides played their eighth-round matches while Machhindra climbed one spot up to sixth with 11 points. It was Machhindra’s fifth draw in eight matches. APF stayed at the ninth place with seven points.

In a battle between the two departmental teams, Parbat Pandey and striker Ju Manu Rai scored one goal each for NPC. Pandey produced a stunner in the 25th minute converting a sensational 40-yard freekick that left APF goalkeeper Chandan Sardar stranded. Ju Manu scored from the spot in the 84th minute after Bishal Shrestha brought down Ramesh Katuwal in the area.

NPC coach Birat Krishna Shrestha said his side would now be under pressure to maintain the lead. “We have always been under pressure being the defending champions but since there is still a long way to go, it would be really difficult for us to maintain the lead,” said Shrestha.

APF were looking equally strong in the match but NPC goalie Ritesh Thapa played a key role denying two strong attacks on the goal. Ritesh brilliantly punched a powerful 28-yard shot in the 26th minute and foiled another curling shot from Ganesh Lawati nine minutes later. In the dying moments, Top Bahadur Bista’s shot from the edge of the area rebounded off the bar.

Earlier, MMC were lucky to take a 22nd-minute lead through an own goal from Bikram Limbu despite Machhindra dominating the match. Machhindra equalised seconds after the break when Karna Limbu, fed by Bishal Rai inside the area, gave a finishing touch.

Karna featured in almost all second half attacks made by Machhindra but failed to convert any. MMC custodian Bishal Shrestha foiled a free header from Karna in the 56th minute before the striker set a good ball to Brazilian Daniel Sores Neves in the 60th minute only for defender Palsang Lama to make a fine run to intercept that.

In the 64th minute, he ended up with a weak shot close from the line, while the striker shot off target wildly despite managing to meet a rebound off MMC goalie Bishal in the 86th minute. Earlier in the first half, Rohit Chand’s powerful freekick from the

edge of the box went wide. Machhindra coach Narottam Shakya — who came in place of Dhruva KC after the chief coach was suspended for a match — said his team was unfortunate not to win despite playing better football.