Pokhara Thunders kept their playoffs hopes alive with a 2-1 victory over 10- man Football Club Chitwan in the Khukri Nepal Super League here at the Dasharath Stadium today.

Raphael Rimago scored the winning goal in the injury time after skipper Skipper Nawayug Shrestha had cancelled out Shishir Lekhi's opener.

The win meant Pokhara finished the campaign with eight points and their fate will now depend on the results of other matches. Chitwan, who could muster just two points from five matches, were eliminated from the playoffs race with one game still to play.

Dhangadhi FC and Kathmandu RayZrs - who have 10 points each - have already made it to the playoffs, while Biratnagar City FC are fourth on seven points. Lalitpur City FC and Butwal Lumbini have six and five points respectively. After the league round, first and second placed sides will contest in first qualifier, while the teams finishing third and fourth will play the eliminator match.

The winners of the eliminator will play against the losing side of the first qualifier to decide the second finalists.

The final is slated for May 15. The winners will be richer by Rs 3.5 million, while the runners-up will earn Rs 1.5 million.

In the do-or-die match for both the sides, Chitwan took the lead in the 73rd minute through a spectacular goal from Shishir Lekhi, who slammed into the top corner of the goal from the edge of the box. The complexion of the match changed in the 86th minute when Chitwan goalkeeper Bishal Sunar used his hands to outside the box to dent Nawayug Shrestha.

Sunar received a straight red card and the situation got worse for Chitwan when Nawayug Shrestha converted the resulting free kick into the goal from the edge of the penalty box to level the scores. Substitute goalkeeper Bishal Chaudhary guessed it right but failed to stop the ball.

Pokhara pressed hard to utilise numerical advantage and their relentless efforts paid off in the fourth minute of the injury time. With two minutes of injury time remaining, Raphael Rimago found the back of the nets following a pass from Ravi Paswan to ensure his side's victory. Paswan was named the man of the match and he earned Rs 25,000, while Chitwan FC's Shishir Lekhi won the emerging player's award along with Rs 10,000.

On Saturday, Biratnagar City FC will take on Lalitpur City FC in the first match, while leaders Dhangadhi face Butwal Lumbini in the evening encounter. The league round will end of Sunday with the match between Kathmandu RayZrs and Chitwan FC.

A version of this article appears in the print on May 8, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.