Lalitpur City, Butwal Lumbini secure playoffsAnjan Bista-led side beat Biratnagar 4-0 to go third while Biraj Maharjan’s team unseat Pokhara at fourth with a 1-0 win over Dhangadhi.
A brace from captain Anjan Bista gave Lalitpur City FC a thumping 4-0 victory over Biratnagar City FC while a late goal from Suman Lama earned Butwal Lumbini FC a 1-0 win over Dhangadhi FC in their respective must win matches as the winners confirmed playoff spots in the Nepal Super League football tournament on Saturday.
Lalitpur made a sensational comeback in the tournament after head coach Pradip Humagain was sacked following their dismal performance managing only three points from the first four matches and without a win. But with the promotion of his deputy Raju Tamang to head coach, Lalitpur registered a second consecutive victory and booked a place in the playoffs. Only the top four teams progress to the next rounds.
“We were weak at scoring in our initial matches but there have been improvements in the last two games. There were a few technical changes in the team and we executed our game plan properly. Our performance was good in the previous games but the only thing lacking was finishing,” said Lalitpur coach Tamang.
With the outcome, Lalitpur finished third with nine points. Biratnagar wrapped up the campaign sixth with seven points. Butwal Lumbini secured the last berth for playoffs finishing fourth. Dhangadhi FC and Kathmandu Rayzrs were confirmed playoff spots with a match in hand.
Although Butwal Lumbini and Pokhara Thunders both ended the league rounds with equal eight points, the former secured the fourth position by virtue of head-to-head results as they had overcome Pokhara 2-0. Irrespective of defeat, Dhangadhi still stand on top with equal 10 points as Kathmandu. But they could be replaced to second depending on the outcome of the last league match between Kathmandu and FC Chitwan scheduled for Sunday.
The last league match between Lalitpur and Biratnagar, however, turned out to be a tense affair in a winner take all clash. Apart from Bista, Bimal Rana and Nurlan Novruzov Zahid also got on the scoresheet in the early kick off at Dasharath Stadium against a Biratnagar side who played with a man down for the last 17 minutes.
The game was interrupted for seven minutes by Biratnagar promptly after they conceded the second goal in the 63rd minute expressing dissatisfaction over referee Kabin Byanjankar’s decision. All players except Spanish forward Pedro Javier Manzi Cruz walked off the field after team officials and coach Yan Law asked them to leave the ground.
Earlier in the 53rd minute Biratnagar players and bench had strongly appealed for a penalty after Bista had brought down Sunil Bal inside the area. But the referee refused to heed the request.
“We should have been awarded at least three penalties,” said coach Law, who has also managed India’s I-League teams in the past and was critical to referee decisions in the earlier matches as well.
“I have been surprised by the referee decision in every match. We lost three valuable points due to the referee's wrong decision. We were under pressure to win and played with the same ambition. The referees here are of similar level that officiate school level matches in India,” Law fumed.
Both sides came into the match with a must win pressure and started with an offensive approach. Biratnagar created more chances but they failed in the finishing department.
Lalitpur created a scoring opportunity in the 16th minute when skipper Anjan Bista gave a through pass to Nurlan Novruzov Zahid but Biratnagar goalie Kishor Giri grabbed the ball before Azerbaijan got his feet on the ball.
In the 27th Biratnagar midfielder Santosh Tamang’s strike from the edge of the area was caught by goalie Arpan Karki.
Captain and Nepali international Bista broke the deadlock with a powerful semi-volley in the 36th after Zahid’s strike in Shrestha’s corner dropped ahead of the forward following a deflection at goalie Giri.
Lalitpur doubled the advantage in the 63rd when substitute forward Bimal Rana tapped a cross from Bista from close range and beat Giri for an easy finish. Lalitpur stretched the lead to 3-0 in the 81st minute as Anjan Bista, left unmarked inside the area, made a free header to convert Kamal Shrestha freekick.
Biratnagar Defender Bijay Dhimal, who replaced captain Ranjit Dhimal in the second half, was sent off in the 85 for a second bookable offence.
Lalitpur rounded off the victory in the fourth minute of the 12-minute stoppage time after Azerbaijan forward Zahid sprinted the ball from the center line and beat goalie Giri inside the area.
In the late fixture, Butwal Lumbini came into the match with a must-win pressure while Dhangadhi rested their prolific forward Oladipo Olawale Afeez who sustained a hamstring injury in their last fixture against Pokhara.
In the evenly contested affair, both the sides created some scoring chances and the best scoring chance for Dhangadhi came in the 65th minute when Nishan Limbu was denied by Butwal Lumbini custodian Bishal Shrestha in one-on-one situation inside the area.
Butwal Lumbini scored the winning goal in the 80th minute through forward Lama thanks to Ghana midfielder William Opoku Asiedu’s brilliant display who dribbled past two defenders and beat goalie Kiran Limbu before setting up Lama for a close range finish.
Lama was named emerging player of the match and Asiedu won the super player award. In the day’s early kickoff, Dona Thapa was named emerging player and Bista super player. The emerging players got Rs10,000 and super players received Rs25,000 each.
Team P W D L GF GA Pts
Dhangadhi 6 3 1 2 8 5 10
Kathmandu 5 3 1 1 7 7 10
Lalitpur 6 2 3 1 7 3 9
Butwal Lumbini 6 2 2 2 7 6 8
Pokhara 6 2 2 2 3 4 8
Biratnagar 6 2 1 3 11 12 7
Chitwan 5 0 2 3 4 10 2