Makhmudkhozhiev last-gasp goal seals comeback win for holders KathmanduThe Uzbeki nets in stoppage time to help the holders overcome a one-goal deficit and beat Pokhara Thunders 2-1.
Shokhrukh Makhmudkhozhiev scored the winner in the fourth minute of the stoppage time as defending champions Kathmandu came from behind to secure a dramatic 2-1 victory over Pokhara Thunders in their Nepal Super League match at Dasharath Stadium in Kathmandu on Monday.
Pokhara were rampant throughout the game but it was Kathmandu who provided the decisive blow as Bal Gopal Maharjan’s side snapped their three-match winless run to climb to the third position in the nine-team standings.
Ayush Ghalan put Pokhara in front in the 59th minute but Nkgngue Juniour equalised in the 82nd minute before Makhmudkhozhiev completed the remarkable comeback in the injury time in a pulsating encounter.
Nabin Neupane’s Pokhara were looking to climb to the summit against a side whose defence of the title seemed to have creaked following two draws and a loss.
Pokhara were a better side and constantly attacked the opponents, yet Kathmandu denied them the deserved lead with two goal line clearances after the half-an-hour mark.
Moses Gyabaah Twum ghosted the Kathmandu defenders to meet a perfectly placed thorough pass from Ayush Ghalan inside the area and flicked past advancing goalkeeper Anjal Shrestha—Kathmandu’s second choice glovesman—in the 34th minute but Andres Nia prevented the disaster by clearing the ball from the goal line.
In the resulting corner, goalkeeper Shrestha’s poor decision-making almost allowed Twum’s header to find the net after bouncing off the ground but Rajiv Lopchan came to the rescue with another save from the touchline.
Twum came close to scoring again in the 38th minute when his towering header off a cross from Suraj Jiu Thakuri hit the outside of the crossbar.
Under pressure, Majarjan sent in marquee player Hishub Thapaliya with half-time approaching and Kathmandu showed immediate improvements in the attacking front, with Thapaliya feeding a lethal cross inside the Pokhara box but Juniour’s diving header missed the target by inches.
Ayush Ghalan finally found the breakthrough near the hour-mark, nodding in a rebound after Kathmandu goalkeeper Shrestha failed to keep a powerful left-footed shot from Stephen Kojo Annor.
Moments later Juniour missed the target again after his header sailed just wide.
Pokhara intensified the attack looking for the winner and Nia had to make another save from the end line to prevent Twum, whose close-ranged shot first stung the palm of Kathmandu goalkeeper Shrestha before turning goal-bound.
A minute later, Kathmandu shocked Pokhara with an equaliser when Dipesh Gurung linked up with unmarked Juniour, who surprised Pokhara goalkeeper Yves Priso Njanga with a lightning-quick effort that hit the post before rolling in.
Pokhara grew more aggressive in search of a winner and Kathmandu goalie Shrestha almost allowed them to retake the lead in the third minute of the stoppage time when he ventured too far from the net to stop substitute Padam Tamang from scoring but the goalkeeper was too fortunate that Tamang’s chip missed the target.
But Kathmandu’s Shokhrukh Makhmudkhozhiev robbed the show in the dying seconds. The Uzbeki forward found himself in a situation that was almost a carbon copy of Tamang’s move seconds ago after Tojidinov Komiwon fed him on the far side of the box with a long pass. Priso desperately abandoned the post to clear the ball but Makhmudkhozhiev made no mistake.
Lalitpur City occupy the top spot with nine points from five matches. Dhangadhi are second on eight points but have played a game less. Pokhara are also tied on eight points with Kathmandu and Dhangadhi but remain in the fourth position.
The top four teams at the end of the single round-robin league will advance into the playoffs.