Dhangadhi through to final after extra time goalBishal Rai netted the decisive goal 18 minutes into the additional half-hour as they beat Kathmandu Rayzrs 2-1 in the first qualifier match.
Dhangadhi FC came from a goal down to beat Kathmandu Rayzrs FC 2-1 in extra time and secure a place for the final of Nepal Super League, the first ever franchise football tournament in the country, at the Dasharath Stadium in Tripureshwor on Tuesday.
Midfielder Bishal Rai netted the decisive goal 18 minutes into the additional half an hour after a 1-1 draw in the regular time for Dhangadhi, who became the first to enter into the final. Tej Tamang had given a lead to the Bal Gopal Maharjan coached Kathmandu midway in the second half but midfielder Pujan Uparkoti cancelled it shortly, driving the match into extra time.
Kathmandu and Dhangadhi came into the first qualifiers as the winners and runners up in the round robin league and the tournament format offered a direct final spot for winners among them. Despite the defeat, Kathmandu will get yet another chance to secure a place in the final. They will meet the winners between third placed Lalitpur FC and fourth placed Butwal Lumbini FC in the second qualifiers set for Thursday. Lalitpur and Butwal Lumbini will clash on Wednesday.
The entertaining match saw Kathmandu excel in ball possession and pile pressure on the national captain led Kiran Limbu’s Dhangadhi in the first half while the second half remained more balanced. Dhangadhi, who rested their prolific forward Oladipo Olawale Afeez in their last match due to a hamstring injury, started with the Nigerian pairing him with Darshan Gurung upfront. The Nigerian, second highest scorer of the tournament, however, was not at his best and made little impact on the match.
Kathmandu threatened Dhangadhi in the 15th minute when the tournament’s top scorer Messouke E Oloumou rattled the bar with his long range strike. They threatened yet again calling goalie Limbu into action in the 37th to deny Sudil Rai’s close range scorcher at the near post.
Kathmandu finally broke the deadlock in the 75th when Tej Tamang was allowed for a free header inside the crowded area to convert an acute cross by Cameroonian Oloumou. But Kathmandu’s hope of avenging the 3-0 defeat in the league round evaporated three minutes later as Pujan Uperkoti restored the parity with a spectacular back volley from the crowded zone. The midfielder quickly gave a finishing touch after he got a ball headed by Cameroonian defender Franklin KueteTalla when a ball parried by goalie Bikesh Kuthu moving out of position dropped on him.
“We had to concede the goal due to errors by the goalkeeper and defenders three minutes after getting on the scoresheet,” lamented coach Bal Gopal Maharjan. “We came into the match with the ambition of securing a place in the final. But we are still not out of the final race and we will try to perform better in the next match.”
Maharjan, however, praised his team’s performance. “The boys performed really well and they executed the match plan of possessing the ball. There were also injury problems in the team,” he said.
Dhangadhi came closer to scoring their second goal in the 89th minute when Afeez collected a through pass from Saujan Rai before the Nigerian forward was denied in a one-on-one situation by goalie Kuthu. The forward then required treatment after sustaining a hamstring injury before the regulation period finished. He was replaced at the start of second half of the added 30 minutes by defender Ramesh Dangal.
Kathmandu wasted a golden scoring chance as Tej Tamang failed to connect Anjan Rai’s cross in the six-yard box, sending the ball wide with a feeble touch. Dhangadhi finally scored the winning goal in the 18th minute of the added time as their marquee player Bishal Rai made an easy tapping from the close range beating an offside trap in Dangal’s header pass. He did not even celebrate his goal, suspecting if it was offside before the referee signaled it as a goal.
Kathmandu squandered yet another scoring opportunity six minutes from time when Anjan Rai ended up firing high above the post in Stephen Binong free kick.
Dhangadhi coach Fuja Tope said he tested defender Dangal in place of forward Afeez and that turned fruitful. “The main reason for starting injured Afeez was to put pressure on opponent defenders. But we replaced him after he was unable to continue playing because the defender has good quality in playing aerial ball and we were successful in that.”
Dhangadhi’s Soujan Rai was named the emerging player and his teammate Franklin KueteTalla won the super player award. Rai was rewarded with Rs10,000 and Talla got Rs25,000.