Kareem, Afeez put Machhindra in title raceA 2-1 victory over APF sends the holders level on 24 points with second-placed Jawalakhel and third-placed Three Star.
Omolaja Nurain Kareem and Olawale Afeez were on target as the reigning champions Machhindra Club defeated Armed Police Force Club 2-1, expressing their intent for a third consecutive title in the Martyrs Memorial A-Division League at the Dasharath Stadium in Kathmandu on Sunday.
Machhindra had a bumpy start to their defence of the trophy, losing 3-1 against Jawalakhel Youth Club in the opener, followed by a 2-0 defeat against Tribhuvan Army Club and a goalless draw against Manang Marshyangdi Club.
But recent results have changed the dynamics of the top tier title race—which is becoming more unpredictable as the season progresses.
Jawalakhel have thrown away a five-point lead and their latest collapse—three losses and a draw—have allowed the league debutants Church Boys United to surge back to the top of the table.
Chasing Three Star Club and Satdobato Youth Club faltered on Saturday after playing goalless stalemates with Friends Club and Manang Marshyangdi Club, respectively.
Machhindra have now extended their undefeated streak to five matches—winning three and drawing two, and Sunday’s retribution victory against departmental side APF moved them up to fourth on the table with 24 points—level with the second-placed Jawalakhel and Three Star.
But Machhindra’s victory was hard-earned against a dogged APF, who sent shivers down their spines with a 37th minute lead through Armand Beadoum.
Beadoum capitalised on poor defending by Diwakar Chaudhary to seize the ball in the midfield, raced into the box and crossed Bike Tamang. Kareem blocked the path but the ball went back to Beadoum who cut back for Tamang. Tamang’s weak shot swung back for Beadoum and the Chad forward volleyed into the far post from close range to put APF in front.
Kareem equalised in the fifth minute of the additional time, brilliantly scoring a free kick.
And Afeez secured Machhindra an important victory in the first minute of the second half injury time, volleying a 20-yard shot over APF goalkeeper Anjal Shrestha.
The win was a sweet revenge for Machhindra, who had lost 1-0 against the same side in the first leg on April 19. It also ended APF’s three-match unbeaten streak in the league.
APF stayed in the ninth position with 19 points.
Sankata leave it late
At the ANFA Complex, Sankata Youth Club rode the penalty luck in the dying seconds to hold departmental giants Army to a 1-1 draw.
Bharat Khawas scored his first goal of the season to give Army the lead in the 18th minute, finishing a cool pass from Nawayug Shrestha.
But Sankata were awarded a penalty in the sixth minute of the six-minute additional time after Bharat Chaudhary brought down Junior Onguene Nkengue inside the box and Lebanese Youssef Atriss, who replaced Rakesh Chaudhary in the 37th minute, sent Army goalkeeper Bikesh Kuthu the wrong way, to snatch a point.
For Army, the draw is a crushing blow to their hopes of staying in the title contention. Instead, they are now sitting in the sixth position with 21 points.
Sankata climbed out of the relegation zone to the 10th position in team standings.