Bista’s goal steers Lalitpur into qualifierRaju Tamang’s men defeat Butwal Lumbini 1-0, will meet Kathmandu Rayzrs in the virtual semi-final match today.
The sole goal from captain Anjan Bista gave Lalitpur City FC a 1-0 victory over Butwal Lumbini FC as they entered into the qualifier match, virtual semi-final, of the Nepal Super League football tournament at the Dasharath Stadium in Tripureshwor on Wednesday.
Winger Bista scored in the 63rd minute for Lalitpur who had defeated the same opponents by the same scoreline in the league rounds as well. Lalitpur, who made it to the playoffs as the third-placed team in the league, will meet former national coach Bal Gopal Maharjan-led Kathmandu Rayzrs in the qualifier game on Thursday. The winners among them will vie against Dhangadhi FC in the final on Saturday.
In the evenly contested affair, Lalitpur dominated the ball possession in the early moments but the second half was much more balanced with Butwal Lumbini creating frequent chances. But they lacked the cutting edge and ended their journey from the first ever franchise football tournament of the country.
In the 12th minute, Butwal Lumbini's Dona Thapa ended up shooting wide from the edge of the area after he collected a ball parried by goalie Bishal Shrestha to prevent skipper Anjan Bista's left flank cross.
The glovesman again came to the rescue for Lalitpur in the 25th when he punched Azerbaijan forward Nurlan Novruzov Zahid’s quick scorcher in Dona Thapa short pass and in rebounder skipper Bista ended up firing wide. Four minutes later defender Kamal Shrestha wasted an opportunity for Lalitpur as he selfishly shot wide from the tight angle in Bimal Rana pass instead of passing it to Bista inside the six yard box.
Butwal Lumbini's first chance came in the 32nd minute when goalie Arpan Karki caught winger William Opoku Asiedu’s feeble volley in Laxman Ruchal corner. A minute later, Bista replied for Lalitpur when he applied a scorcher only for goalie Shrestha to punch it.
Ghanian winger Asiedu wasted a golden scoring opportunity for Butwal Lumbini in the 40th as his close range strike was blocked by goalie Shrestha and Aashish Lama shot above the bar after collecting the rebound.
In the 56th forward Zahid wasted a scoring opportunity for Lalitpur as he ended up firing above the bar when he collected a poor clearance from Butwal Lumbini Nigerian defender Omolaja Nurain Kareem.
Lalitpur captain Bista finally broke the deadlock in the 63rd with his third goal of the campaign. He made a low header from the crowded area to convert Mikchhen Tamang's left flank cross after he was set by substitute Gaurav Budathoki.
Three minutes later Lalitpur survived a scare as goalie Karki made a diving save to deny Aashish Lama low ball strike with only the custodian standing between him and the goal in Avishek Rijal's through pass. Butwal came closer to scoring yet again in the 79th as defender Kareem's strike landed at the upright and forward Suman Lama ended up smashing wide from left flank in the rebounder.
Butwal Lumbini coach Sanoj Shrestha said that the match was an equally contested affair. "The result could have gone another way had Kareem's strike not landed at the woodwork. Our chances were not converted," he said.
Analysing his team's run in the tournament, Shrestha said: "We performed well in the beginning and won the first two matches, but as the tournament proceeded we were plagued by injuries and got just two points from the last four matches in the league. Overall, we achieved our target of a top four finish and I am satisfied with the run in the tournament."
Lalitpur coach Raju Tamang, who pulled four victories in a row after being promoted to head coach, said that it was a tough game and they felt the absence of their defender Niraj Basnet who was ruled out due to injury.
Regarding the challenges of facing Kathmandu on the very next day Tamang said: "We will come up with a spirited performance and the players selection will depend upon the recovery as they are exhausted after playing the match." His counterpart Shrestha said that Lalitpur might only be able to perform half of their potential if they do not recover properly.
Lalitpur goalie Karki was named super player and his teammate Mikchhen Tamang got the super player award. Karki won Rs10,000 and Tamang Rs25,000.