Machhindra defeat NRT, Army held by PoliceNepal international winger Sunil Bal scores twice in champions Machhindra’s 2-1 victory over NRT while Army fights back for a 1-1 draw against Police.
Nepali international Sunil Bal struck twice for the champions Machhindra Club's 2-1 victory over New Road Team (NRT) while last season’s runners-up Tribhuvan Army Football Club were held to 1-1 draw by Nepal Police Club in their opening match of the Martyr’s Memorial 'A' Division Football League at the Dasharath Stadium in Tripureshwar on Monday.
Star-studded Machhindra lived up to their billing with swift movement and beautiful performance in arguably the best match of the first round of the premier division league. The outcome meant Machhindra became one of the four teams along with Three Star Club, Manang Marshyangdi Club and Brigade Boys Club to win their first round matches.
In the late fixture of the day, Machhindra took an early 12th minute lead against a balanced NRT. Nepali international winger Bal collected Bishal Rai's acute pass at the right flank and made a cool finish placing the ball at the far post with a low strike.
The champions threatened a minute later again as midfielder Rai dispossessed the ball from NRT defender Andre Thiery Biyek Biyek before firing wide from the arch of area with only an advancing goalie Ajit Prajapati in his way.
Ten minutes later Abhishek Rijal's goal for Machhindra was ruled as offside.
NRT, boosted by the presence of influential Cameroonian duo Messouke Oloumou and Stephane Binong who had shone in the franchise-based Nepal Super League held a few months ago, created the first remarkable chance in the 26th but forward Krittish Ratna Chhunju ended up shooting wide in one-on-one with goalie Bishal Shrestha.
NRT piled pressure early in the second half and threatened the opponent's half seven minutes into the restart. Shiva Gurung headed inches wide from the crowded zone in Arik Bista freekick.
NRT restored the parity two minutes later as Bista's curling 35-yard freekick entered at the left top of near post stunning Machhindra goalie Shrestha.
Machhindra's Avishak Rijal squandered a scoring opportunity in the 64th as the unmarked forward headed wide from the six-yard box in an acute cross of defender Ranjit Dhimal. NRT substitute Manish Dangi's 74th minute strike from outside the area was saved by a diving goalie Prajapati.
Bal restored Machhindra's lead in the 80th after he tapped captain Sujal Shrestha's left flank cross from the six-yard box. Substitute Bimal Gharti Magar, the 80th minute replacement of Rijal, came closer to extending Machhindra’s lead in the 83rd after he ran with the ball from the center to the opponent's area but goalie Prajapati grabbed the ball before he could beat the last man.
Machhindra coach Prabesh Katuwal said that he was happy to start the campaign with three points. "NRT have two best foreign players in their squad and to start the league with three points is good," said Katuwal. "We missed many scoring opportunities and the opponents made life difficult for us at times."
NRT's veteran coach Raju Kaji Shakya also expressed satisfaction with his side's performance. "It is the first match and it takes time for the team to set well. Overall the boys played well," said the former national captain. "The foreigner player did not get good support and the opponents players also marked them tightly."
In the early kick off, Army toiled hard for a comeback draw against the archrivals Police. Substitute Bibek Basnet hit back the equaliser in the 61st after Police went ahead 10 minutes earlier.
Playing in the absence of influential forward Nawayug Shrestha, ruled out for the entire league due to knee injury, Army failed to get on the scoresheet despite making a couple of attempts on goal in the first half.
Captain Bharat Khawas came closer to scoring in the 14th. But under the tight marking of Police defenders, the forward's header from the area missed the target by inches in George Prince Karki's cross.
Police replied four minutes later only for striker Suman Lama to fire above the bar from 25 yards. A few minutes before the interval, midfielder Sesehang Angdangbe's 30-yard scorcher for Army landed straight at goalie Satrughan Chaudhary's hand.
Police broke the deadlock six minutes into the second half after defender Hemram headed from the crowded six-yard box to convert Tej Tamang's freekick.
Army restored parity in the 61st with a brilliant finish through substitute Bibek Basnet who unleashed a powerful scorcher from the outer edge of the area. Midfielder Basnet, 58th minute replacement of Jagjeet Shrestha, smashed on a poor clearance by Buddha Tamang.
Scorer Basnet wasted a scoring opportunity in the 80th as he fired wide from the right flank of the area in Angdangbe’s through pass with only custodian Chaudhary in his way.
Police coach Ananta Raj Thapa said that he was happy to earn a point against the runners-up. "It was a high pace game and we were very close to three points. But we are happy to walk away with a point."
Army assistant coach Raju Tamang also expressed satisfaction with the team's performance. "We failed in the finishing department," he pointed out.
The second rounds of the league will begin Friday.