APF hold Army, NRT beat FriendsArmy drawn with APF 1-1 while New Road Team see off Friends 3-2 to move to fifth in the standings.
Tribhuvan Army Club surrendered their one-goal cushion to draw 1-1 with their departmental rivals Armed Police Force Football Club while New Road Team overcame Friends Club 3-2 in the Martyrs Memorial ‘A’ Division League on Friday.
Army looked on course in their race to the title after George Prince Karki put them on front after the hour mark but APF’s Bikey Tamang soon hit an equaliser capitalising on a mistake from Army goalkeeper Bikesh Kuthu to inflict Army their third consecutive draw at the Dasharath Stadium.
The result dampens Army’s hopes of winning their first ever ‘A’ Division trophy as their chances of securing the golden ticket to the AFC Cup have already diminished.
They sit fourth with 11 points after seven games, three points off leaders Machhindra Club who will be guaranteed a place in the preliminary rounds of the second tier inter-country club football competition of Asia with a win over Nepal Police Club on Sunday. The team finishing on top of the standings after the completion of the seventh round will represent Nepal in the Cup.
Second-placed Manang Marshyangdi Club have 13 points and Sankata who are third have 12 points. Manang will meet Brigade Boys and Sankata will vie against Chyasal in their seventh matches on Saturday.
With Army, who are unbeaten, already out of the race for AFC Cup, their attention shifted to closing the gap on table leaders against a side battling relegation.
And they were bright from the start, and threatened the APF post early in the ninth minute as goalie Yuya Kuriyama had to punch away Karki’s left-footed shot darting toward the top-left corner.
Army missed the opportunity to draw the first blood in the 20th when Jagajeet Shrestha’s well-placed corner found an unmarked Karki inside the six-yard box but his diving header sailed away from the bar.
Their dominance paid off in the 63rd minute, when Karki’s low shot through the crowded defence line deceived goalkeeper Kuriyama after slightly making contact with APF defender Rajan Gurung.
But Army’s joy could not last long thanks to an unforgivable error from Kuthu, who failed to take hold of a shot from Nabin Lama allowing Bikey Tamang to score from a close range in the 67th.
Army had the final opportunity to retake the lead in the 83rd when Kuriyama’s failed attempt to grab a long ball from substitute Bibek Basnet fell straight on the path of Karki inside the penalty area but the forward could not pounce on the mistake by the APF goalie as he ended up hitting a tame shot, blocked by APF defender Sabin Thapa. Karki then immediately wrestled with Adama Doumbia to snatch the uncleared ball only to miss the target.
“We have not been at our best this season. After we failed to win the first two matches, we won two straight to strengthen our title bid. But now, we have drawn three matches in a row again,” said Army coach Nabin Neupane, whose men also shared spoils with Police, Machhindra, Satdobato and Three Star Club in their previous matches.
The coach was also not happy with Kuthu.
“The goalkeeper’s mistake cost us two points,” he added.
APF coach Kumar Thapa said they were still under relegation pressure.
“Though we lost our first three matches, we have not won as well. This is our third draw so the risk of relegation is still there,” said Thapa.
“We came here today with victory in our mind. Army were not at their best today, yet we could not succeed.”
In the day’s late fixture, NRT’s Messouke Oloumou’s brace helped NRT overcome a five-goal thriller over the bottom club and climb to fifth in the standings.
Stephane Binon’s powerful low shot from the edge of the box gave NRT the lead in the fifth minute before Oloumou furthered the advantage in a counter attack in the 20th minute.
Jamoul Francosis tried to bring Friends back into the game with an 81st minute header but Oloumou put the game to bed in the fourth minute of the added time converting a pass from captain Nabin Lama.
Friends’ Nathaniel Garcia pulled another goal in the dying seconds but it was not enough to save the match.
Friends are the only winless team in the league.
Three Star vs Jawalakhel
Sankata vs Chyasal
Venue: Dasharath Stadium
Manang vs Brigade
Venue: Pokhara Stadium