Bal fires Machhindra close to AFC CupThe winger’s stunning freekick at the stoppage time gave them 1-0 victory over MMC and top position in the standings.
Winger Sunil Bal scored a stunning freekick goal in the fading moments as champions Machhindra Club edged contender Manang Marshyangdi Club (MMC) 1-0 to inflict their first defeat on the Martyrs Memorial 'A' Division League at Tripureshwar on Tuesday and strengthen their position for the AFC Cup.
As the match was seemingly heading to a draw, Nepali international forward Bal netted the all-important goal with a 25-yard freekick to send the ball at the right top. The fourth goal of the league also took Bal atop the scores chart along with Ashish Lama of APF FC and Ajayi Martins of Satdobato.
With their fourth victory, unbeaten Machhindra replaced MMC to the second place from the summit with 14 points and opened one point lead atop the standings after equal six matches. The team securing top position at the completion of the seventh round would be eligible for the preliminary rounds of AFC Cup, the second tier club football competition of the Asian countries.
A victory over the eighth-placed Nepal Police Club in the next match would be sufficient for Machhindra to secure a place for the AFC Cup. But MMC not only need to beat Brigade Boys Club in their upcoming fixture for AFC Cup but also hope Machhindra either lose or draw their next game.
After Saturday’s defeat, MMC coach Rajendra Tamang lamented their loss of grip over the AFC Cup. "We could have the upper hand even with a draw going into the seventh round. But we came with three points intention and lost our grip over the AFC Cup," said Tamang. "We however have a mathematical chance and are hoping for the best in the upcoming rounds."
MMC dominated the ball possession before the interval and early second half and played at the opponents half. They, however, struggled to create single clear scoring chances. But they came under consistent pressure in the late second half and ultimately conceded a goal.
The star-studded Machhindra started with 'not fully fit' defender Ranjit Dhimal and substituted him with forward Manish Dangi in the 19th minute. It was, however, Machhindra that created the first threatening move six minutes before the interval. Azerbaijani forward Norlan Novruzov fired a powerful low drive at the far post beating defenders Prabesh Kunwar and Dinesh Rajbanshi but missed the target by a whisker.
In the early second half, Machhindra midfielder Bishal Rai's flick header in Bal's cross missed the target by inches. Bal failed to break the deadlock despite two successive attempts after an hour mark as his powerful strike from edge was parried by goalie Bishal Sunar. His second attempt in rebound was caught by the custodian despite a handball appeal by Machhindra players.
MMC coach Tamang pointed out his side committed repeated fouls around the area. "We committed repeated fouls in the area that we should not have done. Though we were better in the first half, we failed to convert set pieces and chances," lamented Tamang.
Machhindra coach said that his side was successful in achieving their target. "Our target was three points and I am happy to beat a strong team like the MMC. We still have a game to play to confirm our spot in the AFC Cup," said Katuwal, adding that he replaced defender Dhimal with forward Dangi to boost their attacking department.
Himalayan Sherpa pull off second victory
Kenyan forward Mutamba Vunyoli struck a brace for Himalayan Sherpa as they pulled their second victory defeating Chyasal Youth Club 3-1 to leapfrog four spots up and level with Satdobato on eight points.
Both the sides came under pressure to win with Chyasal languishing at the relegation zone. But it was Sherpa who came with an attacking intent and dominated the show. Apart from Mutamba, Suresh Kumal scored a late goal for Sherpa. Rumesh Bartaula hit back for Chyasal which turned out to be the consolation.
The defeat left Chyasal, who suffered their fourth consecutive loss, languishing in the relegation zone. They are second from the bottom with four points from six matches.
"It is a critical situation for the coaching staff and team and if we (coaching staff) have not been able to guide the team properly, we need to make way for others," Chyasal coach Bal Gopal Maharjan said at the post match conference.
Sherpa's drew first blood in the in the 25th minute as forward after Vunyoli found a long clearance from their own half and beat goalie Arpan Karki in a one-on-one with a well-placed low strike at the far post. Three minutes before that, Sherpa's midfielder Tridev Gurung fired high above the bar capitalising on a defensive error of Avishek Limbu.
Sherpa defender Ulrich Siwe ended up shooting inches wide collecting a rebounder from Chyasal defender Limbu. Chyasal's first threatening move came moments later only for forward Karna Subba to head Italian forward Bikash Meraglia's cross above the bar.
Chyasal created a couple of opportunities early in the second half before forward Rajiv Lopchan and Meraglia wasted scoring opportunities. Instead it was Sherpa to double the advantage in the 57th as Vunyoli pounced on a ball spilled by goalie Arpan Karki in his attempt to collect a feeble strike by Tridev Gurung.
Chyasal reduced the deficit in the 76th with a brilliant one-touch finish by substitute Rumesh Bartaula, left unmarked inside the area, who turned in a spectacular pass of Rajiv Lopchan. Kumal restored two-goal cushion for Sherpa 10 minutes from time tapping in Manish Thapa's cross from the zone.
Sherpa coach Rai said that the result was important at the level and lauded the opponents. "Chyasal played better than us and the only thing missing was a goal. But the result is important at this level and we got that," said Rai.