KATHMANDU: Santosh Sahukhala’s injury-time goal helped Nabil Three Star Club edge out Nepal Police Club (NPC) 2-1 in the quarter-finals of the British Gurkha Cup Football Tournament here at the Dasharath Stadium today.
Sahukhala scored the decider through a spot kick in the first minute of the three-minute of added-on time. The Lalitpur-based club was awarded the penalty after Rabin Shrestha handled the ball inside the area. Earlier, Three Star winger Vijay Gurung scored the equaliser in the 26th minute, five minutes after NPC midfielder Ananta Thapa had put the departmental team in front.
In the highly charged up game, both the reigning national league champions NPC and the former champions Three Star lived up to their names, providing glimpses of their true colours. After making a couple of threatening moves early on, the departmental team deservedly took the lead in the 21st minute. NPC forward Ju Manu Rai controlled the ball delivered by Rabin Shrestha and set for Ananta to score into the far post beyond the reach of diving Three Star custodian Kiran Chemjong.
Three Star skipper Pradeep Maharjan was denied an equaliser by NPC goalie Ritesh Thapa in the 25th minute. Maharjan directed a powerful header into the far post following an acute cross from winger Vishan Gauchan but Thapa made equally better dive to deny the equaliser. It was, however, goalie Thapa whose mistake allowed Three Star back into the game a minute later. Thapa fumbled a ball delivered by Anjan KC, allowing Vijay to simply tap in an equaliser.
Both the teams pressed forward, creating several opportunities only for Three Star to come out as victors. Parbat Pandey almost got a goal from a corner in the 33rd minute but an alert Three Star goalie Chemjong punched the ball away for a corner. Two mintues into the second half, Ju Manu overpowered Three Star defender Sandeep Rai in an one-on-one encounter but shot weakly into the hands of goalkeeper Chemjong.
Sahukhala headed wide on a cross from Anil Ojha in the 52nd minute and a minute later Three Star keeper Chamjong denied striker Ju Manu in a solitary encounter. NPC were also unlucky a minute later when Suman Subedi’s bicycle kick was cleared from goalline by Sandeep. Three Star applied a constant pressure, making one after another threatening moves notably in the 70th minute when their new recruit Frenchman Jocelyn Morgan Pierce missed a sitter from six yards. Needing just a touch in an unattended post, Pierce applied a weak header out of the play.
Three Star fans errupted in jubiliation when Santosh seemingly scored the winner in the 89th minute only for the assistant referee Binod KC to rule it out. The ball appeared to have rebounded from inside the nets. Three Star’s search for winner came when Rabin handled the ball inside the area and Sahukhala coolly converted it.
NPC coach Birat Krishna Shrestha said that his players allowed their opponents to dig deep into their territory. “Early on we squandered a few chances and later we fell two deep inviting more pressure. Had only we been able to hold the flow of the game, we would have won easily,” lamented the NPC coach.
Shrestha’s counterpart Bal Gopal Maharjan said his boys adopted a fluent and speedy game which turned out to be the deciding factor. “Most of our players are carrying injuries and despite that winning a match against the likes of NPC is tremendous,” said Maharjan adding that his players also took it as a prestige match.