Policemen stun Machhindra, enter final
Dharan, February 27
Goalkeeper Sanjit Shrestha saved a spot kick from San Miguel Machhindra Club skipper Biraj Maharjan in sudden death as Nepal Police Club advanced to the final of the 22nd Budhasubba Tuborg Gold Cup here at the Dharan Stadium today.
The match was decided on penalties after both the teams failed to score in the regulation period. As the teams remained deadlocked at 4-4 in tie-breaker, the winners were separated in sudden death.
Kapil Dhaka converted from the spot to put NPC ahead in the sudden death before Shrestha denied former national team skipper Maharjan to send the five-time champions into 11th final.
In penalty shootout, both teams had one each penalty saved by the custodians. Bhola Silwal, Padam Bharati, Tirtha Rana Magar and skipper Jumanu Rai scored for NPC, while Machhindra goalkeeper Bishal Shrestha stopped the shot from Suman Subedi.
Likewise, Ranjit Dhimal, Bimal Gharti Magar, Bijay Dhimal and Devendra Tamang converted from the spot for Machhindra, while NPC glovesman Sanjit Shrestha denied Bishal Rai ‘B’.
Earlier, NPC came close to opening the scoring in the first minute of the match but Manish Thapa ended up with a wayward shot from the box following a pass from Tirtha Rana Magar. Thapa wasted another chance three minutes later after he missed the target with an acrobatic shot on Rishi Pithakoti’s pass.
At the other end, Buddha Chemjong shot wide in the fifth minute as the Qatar Airways Martyrs Memorial A Division League champions Machhindra missed a chance to take the lead. Bimal Rana Magar’s powerful strike sailed inches above the bar in the 17th minute, while Bishal Rai failed to utilise a loose ball after NPC goalkeeper Shrestha fumbled inside the box.
Machhindra put pressure on NPC in the second half and created a couple of opportunities but the forwards kept on misfiring. Yogesh Gurung, who came in place of injured Adelaja Somide, wasted an opportunity minutes after the resumption, while NPC custodian Sanjit Shrestha made a brilliant save to deny Ranjit Dhimal in a set piece in the 59th minute. Machhindra should have scored the winning goal in the 89th minute but Rejin Subba’s shot after beating goalkeeper Shrestha rolled inches wide off the post.
Machhindra coach Prabesh Katuwal was frustrated with the result. “We dominated the show as the players took control over the match but we just could not find the back of the nets,” said Katuwal. “We were forced to replace Adelaja Somide as he could not continue after 10 minutes and that changed the complexion of the match. And the players are also not getting enough rest as we have been playing continuously after the league,” said the coach whose side came to Dharan after winning Satakshi Gold Cup in Jhapa on Sunday.
NPC coach Dinesh Gurung lauded his boys’ performance in the match. “We had set the defensive approach for the match and we were successful in stopping Machhindra from scoring in the regulation period,” said Gurung. “It’s not easy to play against a strong team like Machhindra and I am happy that the players were able to get the desired outcome,” he added.
NPC goalkeeper Sanjit Shrestha was named the man of the match and he received Rs 15,000, while Ranjit Dhimal earned Rs 5,000 after his penalty goal was adjudged the best goal of the match. NPC, who lost to departmental rivals Tribhuvan Army Club in Rhino Gold Cup final in Nawalpur yesterday, will now face NOC Manang Marshyangdi Club in Saturday’s final.