Machhindra fail to go beyond preliminary roundThe ‘A’ Division league champions succumb to a 2-1 defeat against Sri Lanka’s Blue Star to be eliminated from AFC Cup’s preliminary qualifying round.
Martyrs Memorial ‘A’ Division League champions Machhindra Club were stunned 2-1 by visiting Blue Star SC of Sri Lanka to send the home team crashing out from the preliminary qualifying round of the AFC Cup on Tuesday.
Forward Mohamed Ihsan and Shenal Sandesh scored in quick succession in the first half at the Dasharath Stadium before Machhindra captain Sujal Shrestha headed a consolation goal. Blue Star could have added yet another goal but goalie Bishal Shrestha denied a spot kick.
Winners Blue Star will vie against Indian Super League side ATK Mohun Bagan in the preliminary round two on April 12 in the second tier inter-country club football tournament organsied by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
Machhindra, going through a poor run in recent domestic gold cups in districts, failed to live up to the billing. Though the star studded side made a bright start, they failed to convert their dominance to goal and wasted numerous scoring opportunities.
Machhindra's forward Nurlan Novruzov squandered a golden scoring opportunity in the ninth minute. The Azerbaijan forward ended up shooting wide from a close range with only goalie Lakpriya Fernando standing between him and the goal after he found a long pass from Bimal Gharti Magar.
"We wasted 10-12 chances and struck at the woodwork on three occasions," Machhindra coach Prabesh Katuwal said at the post match conference. He also expressed dissatisfaction over Novruzov's performance. "He should have converted the goal from five-six yards, but he failed to meet our expectations," he said, adding that they failed to recruit foreign players on loan as per their plan. " 'A' Division clubs were unwilling to release their players on loan due to the ongoing row between Nepal Super League and 'A' Division league clubs."
In the 15th minutes later goalie Bishal Shrestha rescued Machhindra after he dived to deny a spotkick taken by Arepade Ombebe. Blue Star were awarded the penalty after defender Devendra Tamang brought down Sandesh inside the area prompting Iraqi referee Yousif Saeed Hasan to point towards the spot.
The Sri Lanka Premier League champions opened the scoring in the 25th minute taking advantage of a sloppy Machhindra defence line-up. Forward Ihsan cleverly beat goalie Shrestha in a one-on-one situation after collecting a quick freekick pass of Mohamad Fasal.
Sandesh doubled the advantage three minutes later, capitalising on a defense error by Ranjit Dhimal. He applied a powerful strike at the far post from close range leaving goalie Shrestha clueless. In the 38th, goalie Lakpriya Fernando made a quick dive to deny Tamang's strike.
Four minutes into the second half, goalie Fernando punched winger Sunil Bal's left flank strike to safety. In the 56th, unmarked captain Sujal Shrestha headed wide in a corner delivery by Ranjit Dhimal.
Machhindra brought in Nepali international forward Manish Dangi replacing Sunil Bal and Avishek Rijal in place of Novruzov. But the duo failed to make a remarkable impact. In the 67th, forward Gharti Magar's header in Rijal cross struck the bar and Tsering Gurung’s strike in rebound was defended by Tharindu Eranga just ahead of the goalline.
Captain Shrestha hit back the consolation moments before the final whistle to convert Dangi's cross.
Sri Lanka coach SMA Banda Samarakoon said that they successfully executed their match plan. "We had studied the opponents and made plans accordingly. The opponents played well in both the halves but we were able to stop their key players," he said adding that the game would be helpful in imparting a positive message at a time the country is reeling through financial crisis
"Sri Lanka is in a very bad situation financially. We needed some kind of achievement in football to impart positive vibes. Most of the players are from financially poor family backgrounds and the victory would definitely boost the sports sector in the country," he said.