Army thump Sri Lanka Police 5-1 to enter second roundNawayug Shrestha scores twice for Nepal’s departmental team, who will face Indian Super League side Bengaluru FC in the second round on March 14.
Nawayug Shrestha struck twice for Tribhuvan Army Club as they fought back from a goal deficit to thump Sri Lanka Police SC 5-1 to enter the second round of the AFC Cup Preliminary stage at the Dasharath Stadium in Tripureshwor on Wednesday.
Though Army intensified attacks from the beginning, it was the visitors to get on the score sheet first. Midfielder Santosh Tamang scored deep into second half to cancel Sri Lanka Police's 28th minute lead from Ghanian forward Evans Asante. Forward Shrestha made it 2-1 two minutes before the break. Winger Tanka Basnet, substitute Sudil Rai and Shrestha scored in the second half to seal the comprehensive victory.
Army will travel to India to face Bengaluru FC, the Indian Super League side, on April 14 for the second round match. The winners between them will compete in the play off final on April 21. The opponents will be one among Club Eagles (Maldives), Thimphu City (Bhutan) and Abahani Limited Dhaka (Bangladesh).
"The boys gave their cent percent and everyone fulfilled their task," said Army coach Nabin Neupane after the victory. "We had faith in the players. The score could have been much bigger had they converted other chances. The next round match will be much tougher than this."
Second choice goalie Biswas Chaudhary started in place of regular Bikesh Kuthu, who was out due to a health problem.
Army dominated the show and played an offensive game as forward Shrestha fired wide in the first minute and Sri Lanka Police custodian D Dinesh Mahendran denied midfielder Santosh Tamang strike in the 10th minute. Two minutes later, Army thought that they scored when skipper Bharat Khawas shot from a tight angle after the goalie Mahendran was already beaten only for the Sri Lanka Police defender to make a goalline clearance.
In the resulting corner, goalie Mahendran again punched skipper Khawas header to safety in the ball delivered by winger Tanka Basnet.
But it was Evans to score against the run of play to open scoring when he quickly fired a low volley from close range in Mohamed Imran pass.
Army wasted a scoring opportunity in the 34th as striker Khawas’s powerful tapping in Nawayug Shrestha right flank cross went inches wide. In the 39th, unmarked Khawas' header from Basnet cross ended up in similar fashion.
Army finally broke the deadlock in the 41st minute to restore the parity as Tamang scored with a half volley from 30 yards. Two minutes later, Army were 2-1 up after forward Shrestha was allowed a free header from the area in Khawas right flank cross.
Army again came closer to scoring in the first half injury time after speeding Khawas and Shrestha exchanged one-to-one passes and quickly took the ball towards the opponents' area only for custodian Mahendran to deny Shrestha on one-versus situation.
Rejuvenated Army scored the third goal five minutes into the second half when Tanka Basnet tapped skipper Khawas cross after Sri Lanka Police goalie Mahendran failed to grab the ball.
Army wasted another opportunity in the 73rd when unmarked Shrestha failed to control Sesehang Angdangbe cross inside the six yard box, giving an easy opportunity for goalie Mahendran to grab the ball.
Sri Lanka Police gave a scare in the 76th when Evan shot a quick scorcher from the area that rattled off the bar. Substitute Sudil Rai, who replaced winger Basnet in the 63rd minute, stretched the score in the 83rd, pouncing on a poor coordination between goalie Mahendran and defender Issa Addevu.
In the stoppage time, Sudil Rai hit the bar in Nawayug cross. But the goal hunger did not stop there as forward Shrestha made a one-touch strike from the area in dying moments to seal the victory.
Sri Lanka coach Rohan Thilak Alponsu said that he was satisfied with the outcome despite the big defeat. "As it is our first international tournament and we came on the back of a short training, I am satisfied with the performance. We also don't have any national players in the team," said the Sri Lankan, adding that the opponents were strong and vibrant.