Police edge Sherpa to reach quartersGoalie Khadka denies Chemjong’s spot kick in the sudden death to set up Aaha Rara last eight meetings with MMC.
Six times champions Nepal Police Club pulled off a struggling win over the Himalayan Sherpa Club in sudden death to book a quarter-final ticket in the 20th Aaha Rara Gold Cup football tournament at the Pokhara Stadium on Friday.
Midfielder Purna Bahadur Gurung was denied by diving Police goalie Roshan Khadka, the penalty specialist who replaced Sanjeet Shrestha at the last minute of additional half an hour, to block the second strike of the sudden death overtime.
Police will meet Manang Marshyangdi Club in the quarter-final on Sunday.
The match was decided through sudden death after the regulation 90-minute finished in a 1-1 draw, the additional half an hour remained goalless and the tiebreaker was deadlocked at 4-4 draw. Buddha Tamang and Ram Waje converted for the Police from the spot in sudden death. Sherpa's Jeevan Gurung also scored the first shot from penalty but Purna was denied by goalie Khadka.
In the tiebreaker, Cameroonian forward Ulrich Siwe missed the very first strike from the spot as he smashed on the upright before Tirtha Rana Magar converted for Police. Sherpa players Tridev Gurung, Ashish Gurung, Mutumba Piston and captain Biswas Shrestha converted the next four strikes of the tiebreaker.
Kapil Dhakal missed the fourth shot from the spot for the departmental side as he fired high above the bar while Nir Kumar Rai, captain Suman Sudebi and Bhola Silwal scored from the spots.
Nir Kumar Rai made a one-touch finish from the area to convert Tirtha Rana's pass in the 53rd minute. The forward found the ball after Sherpa's Cameroonian recruit Siwe failed to clear Police defender Ajit Bhandari's long pass and set for Rai after beating two defenders.
The goal celebration could not last long as Sherpa captain Biswas Shrestha restored parity five minutes later. The unmarked forward slammed in Japanese midfielder Reo Nakamura’s cross at the far post from the area.
Police, who started the game with an offensive approach, changed to defensive strategy after conceding the equaliser. In the additional period, Sherpa's Kenyan forward Mutumba missed a couple of scoring opportunities only to bow out of the tournament after the first match.
Police coach Ananta Raj Thapa said that his strategy to field goalie Khadka for penalty at the last moment paid off. "Overall the boys played well and created some opportunities. But we need to improve on our defence lineup," said Thapa, adding that he had to start with some of the veteran players as they don't have foreign recruits in the squad.
Sherpa coach Mitra Bahadur Basnet owed to problems in the scoring department for the defeat despite good performance in other departments. "We played better in the second half and in the additional time. But failed to capitalise on scoring chances," said Basnet whose side are eighth in the Martyrs Memorial 'A' Division League, three spots above Police.
Visiting BYSC Minnesota will vie against APF FC in the first quarter-final of the tournament on Saturday.