Late goals keep Pokhara’s playoff hopes afloatGoals from Shrestha and Rimgago inflict FC Chitwan a 2-0 defeat as Meghraj KC-led side become first team to exit from the playoff contention.
Pokhara Thunders scored two late goals to secure a 2-1 victory over 10-man FC Chitwan and keep alive their playoff hopes in the Nepal Super League football tournament at the Dasharath Stadium in Tripureshwor on Friday.
A stunning free kick by striker Nawayug Shrestha and a stoppage time goal by Cameroonian midfielder Raphael Rimgago brought Pokhara back into the contention of playoffs after Chitwan’s custodian Bishal Sunar was sent off.
Midfielder Sishir Lekhi gave Chitwan a lead, igniting their chances to advance midway into the second half. But the defeat puts an end to coach Meghraj KC-led side’s playoff dream despite having a match in hand. They hit at the bottom of the table with just two points with as many draws.
The outcome lifted Pokhara to third place from sixth with eight points after completion of their all six league matches. However, their entry into playoff rounds depends upon the results of Saturday’s fixtures between Biratnagar City FC versus Lalitpur FC, and Dhangadhi FC versus Butwal Lumbini FC. Only the sides finishing on top four positions will be eligible for playoff rounds.
“It was a do-or-die affair for both sides to keep playoff hopes alive and I think the free kick goal became a turning point,” Pokhara scorer and Nepali international Shrestha said. “We also got the advantage of the red card to the opponent goalkeeper.”
The evenly contested affair saw Pokhara custodian Deep Karki make a quick dive to deny Sunil Shrestha’s strike from the area in the 15th minute. Pokhara wasted a scoring chance in the 27th minute when Ayush Ghalan ended up tapping wide from the area in winger Ravi Paswan's cross with only goalie Bishal Sunar standing between him and the goal post.
Pokhara’s 43rd minute goal by Cameroonian forward Moussa Abba was ruled as offside. In the first half stoppage time, Paswan selfishly fired above the bar instead of passing the ball to his teammates inside the area after he was fed by striker Nawayug Shrestha.
In the 59th, Chitwan striker George Prince Karki’s scorcher from the edge of the area was grabbed by goalie Deep Karki. Pokhara’s forward Abba wasted an opportunity in the 69th as he crossed to Rajesh Pariyar inside the area instead of firing at the post with only goalie Sunar in his way, allowing defenders to clear the ball.
A minute later Chitwan’s Rup Bahadur Lama rattled the bar from the inner edge of the area. But they were rewarded with a goal in the 72nd when Sishir Lekhi collected a poor clearance by Pokhara defenders and fired into the net to break the deadlock.
Chitwan’s in-form custodian Sunar was sent off in the 82nd minute, which proved too costly for the team. He came out of the area and punched Nitin Thapa’s through pass to forward Shrestha in a one-on-one situation, prompting referee Prajwal Thapa to show him red. Forward Shrestha took the resulting free kick in the 86th from the arch of the area and sent it past second choice goalie Diwas Chaudhary.
Cameroonian Raphael Rimgago netted the winner deep into the injury time capitalising on a defensive lapse from Chitwan.
Chitwan’s scorer Sishir Lekhi was named emerging player and Pokhara’s Ravi Paswan won super player award. Lekhi got Rs10,000 and Paswan Rs25,000.