Oloumou hat-trick confirms playoff for KathmanduThe Cameroonian scored the first hat-trick of the tournament as Bal Gopal Maharjan's side edge Biratnagar 5-4 in a high scoring thriller, Lalitpur bag first win.
Cameroonian winger Messouke E Oloumou scored the first Nepal Super League hat-trick as Kathmandu Rayzrs overcame a two-goal deficit to edge Biratnagar City 5-4 in a high scoring thriller and confirmed playoff spot in the first ever franchise football tournament of the country on Thursday.
Oloumou struck first two goals in the space of two minutes to level the scores 2-2 and added third after the break to join Dhangadhi FC's Oladipo Olawale Afeez in the list of highest scorers with four goals under his belt. Stephen Binong and Tshiring Gurung added other goals for former national coach Bal Gopal Maharjan-led Kathmandu at the Dasharath Stadium.
Spanish forward Pedro Javier Manzi Cruz scored in either half for Biratnagar taking his tally to four goals while captain Ranjit Dhimal and Adelaja Oluwawunmi were on targets for Biratnagar.
The outcome puts Kathmandu level on 10 points with leaders Dhangadhi but the former stay second on the goal difference, with the final round matches yet to play before the playoffs. They became the second team after Dhangadhi to confirm playoff berth. Biratnagar dropped one spot to third with seven points and they must beat Lalitpur City FC, who earlier edged Butwal Lumbini FC 1-0, in the final league match to advance.
"The players have been improving day by day and we were successful in executing our plans of winning the game," said Kathmandu coach Maharjan, whose side had scored just two goals in the previous four matches. He added that it was the best game of the tournament but criticised the referee decision. Maharjan claimed that the second goal his side conceded was a clear offside and one of the team officials was sent off after he protested the referee decision.
Biratnagar looked a better side in the early stage and took an early sixth-minute lead as Nigerian forward Adelaja tactfully flicked skipper Ranjit Dhimal's left flank strike to send the ball at the back of net through the legs of custodian Bikesh Kuthu.
In the 33rd, forward Cruz doubled the advantage when he collected Santosh Tamang's through pass and beat goalie Kuthu before firing at the open net.
But Kathmandu hit three goals in quick succession. Oloumou cut the deficit in the 35th with a powerful low drive and equalised a minute later after his left flank strike at the far post slipped just below the crossbar.
Kathmandu made the score 3-2 in 41st when Binong’s curling freekick struck the far post after diminutive goalie Kishor Giri failed to meet the ball despite attempting to punch it. Biratnagar conceded all three before the break from the same direction in a similar angle.
In the 52nd Biratnagar wasted a golden chance to equalise when Ashok Thapa failed to beat goalie in a one-on-one situation in a short pass set by Cruz. Oloumou completed his hat-trick in the 68th with his individual display of brilliance as he beat two defenders and unleashed a powerful strike from a tight angle inside the six-yard box. The ball found the net after smashing upright.
In the 71st goalie Kuthu dropped Ranjit Dhimal long freekick inside the area but Kathmandu defenders cleared the ball. Two minutes later, Kathmandu's Binong’s shot from the crowded box in a corner delivery rattled the crossbar.
Captain Ranjit Dhimal made it 3-4 for Biratnagar in the 79th as his scorcher from the arch of the area beat goalie Bikesh Kuthu following a deflection at the pole. Biratnagar forward Chhiring Gurung restored two-goal lead in a counter attack in the 83rd. He sprinted the ball through four defenders from the centre area and played to Messouke before the Cameroonian set him up inside the box. Gurung then beat goalie Giri with a low strike to get on the scoresheet.
In the last minute of the four minutes injury time, Cruz scored his second after he smashed a ball chest-controlled by Adelaja inside the area in Dhimal's long pass.
Biratnagar's Indian coach Yan Law lamented defensive and goalkeeping lapses for the defeat. "We came up with good performance and we don't have problem in scoring goal but defensive and goalkeeping errors proved costly," said Law, who substituted defender Saroj Dahal, midfielder Nir Kumar Rai in the first half and defender Bikram Dhimal at the start of second half due to injuries.
Lalitpur reignite playoff hopes
A first-half goal from Nurlan Novruzov Zahid brought Lalitpur City FC back into life as they registered their first win defeating Butwal Lumbini FC 1-0 to keep their playoff hopes alive in the day’s early kickoff.
A match after removing their coach Pradip Humagain and promoting his assistant Raju Tamang at the helm, Lalitpur started with an offensive approach and were rewarded with a goal as early as the fifth minute.
Azerbaijan midfielder Zahid made a free header in a corner delivered by Kamal Shrestha at the crowded area after Niraj Basnet played an acrobatic shot and captain Anjan Bista headed to set the momentum for the goal.
The victory lifted Lalitpur to fourth with six points, potentially enabling them to secure a playoff berth through a win in their last fixture against Biratnagar City FC. Only the top four teams at the completion of the league will qualify for the playoffs. With just one victory, Butwal Lumbini FC fell one spot to fifth with five points. They must win their last match and pray for a favourable outcome in other matches to remain in contention for playoffs.
Lalitpur came closer to scoring during the half-hour mark but captain Bista's header in Zahid's pass went wide. Croatian forward Vilim Posinkovic wasted yet another scoring opportunity two minutes later as he ended up smashing wide from the area in Bista's pass.
Lalitpur thought that they doubled the advantage in the first-half stoppage time but skipper Anjan Bista's goal was ruled offside. Lalitpur came close to scoring in the fading moments but forward Dona Thapa's close range scorcher was saved by a diving goalie Bishal Shrestha.