Kathmandu, Pokhara blow chance to go top after drawA winning result in favour of any of the two sides could have lifted one two points clear on top but their 0-0 draw held both back.
Kathmandu Rayzrs and Pokhara Thunders both missed chances to climb on top of the standings after they shared points with a 0-0 draw in the Nepal Super League football tournament at the Dasharath Stadium in Tripureshwor on Friday.
A winning result in favour of any of the two sides could have lifted a team two points clear on top of the table after the third match. But the draw left both Kathmandu and Pokhara level on points with top two teams — leaders Butwal Lumbini FC and Dhangadhi FC – on four points. But Pokhara are above Kathmandu on goal difference. Butwal Lumbini also have a match advantage over the other teams.
Pokhara looked a better side in the first half and created frequent scoring chances, unlike Kathmandu who failed to pose a single threat to Pokhara. But the game was much balanced in the second half and Kathmandu created better scoring opportunities in the later stage.
"The second half was much better than the first. We created few clear chances but failed to convert them," said Kathmandu coach Bal Gopal Maharjan who also was not happy with the congested fixtures and short recovery time. "The players will be unable to give their cent percent performance if they don't get adequate recovery time."
Kathmandu threatened Pokhara in the fifth minute after Moussa Abba seized custodian and captain Bikesh Kuthu's weak delivery and sprinted the ball to the area but could not capitalise on the mistake. In the 14th, Cameroonian forward Abba's right flank freekick was saved by a diving Kuthu.
Five minutes later Pokhara captain Nawayug Shrestha wasted a scoring opportunity as he failed to control Abba's through pass inside the area and instead ended up passing to goalie Kuthu. Pokhara's Aayush Ghalan's diving header from the area in the 23rd minute sailed inches above the bar in Rabi Paswan's right flank cross.
Pokhara replaced influential midfielder Nitin Thapa by Ajit Bhandari in the 36th minute after he picked a muscle injury. They also sent Rajesh Pariyar in the place of midfielder Ayush Ghalan at the hour mark after their consistent first half pressure failed to pay off. But the strategy did not work as they faced pressure after the break.
"We lacked proper coordination after Nitin's replacement due to injury," said Pokhara assistant coach Rajesh Shahi, who also brought veteran forward Anil Gurung in place of Nawayug Shrestha and Prabin Kumar Syangtan as a substitute for Gautam Shrestha.
"Gurung substituted Nawayug after the forward failed to grab scoring chances," said Shahi. "Nepali football as a whole lacks quality forward and the same was reflected in the league."
Kathmandu's first real threat on goal came in the 71st in a free kick but Cameroonian forward Messouke E Oloumou’s shot flew inches above the bar from the edge. Moments later, he again fired wide near from the penalty spot after he was set up brilliantly by compatriot Stephen Binong.
In the 78th, Pokhara's Raphael Rimgago's header from the crowded box in Paswan's corner delivery sailed above the bar. Kathmandu wasted another brilliant chance in the 80th when Oloumou applied a feeble shot off the target after beating Pokhara goalie Deep Karki in Binong pass.
Pokhara thought that they had walked away with full three points in the fading moment of the stoppage time but substitute Prabin Kumar Syangtan's flick header goal in Ketcha Yannick freekick was ruled as offside by referee Nabindra Maharjan.
Kathmandu defender Rajan Gurung was named emerging player while Pokhara midfielder Padam Moktan was declared Super Player of the match. Gurung was rewarded with Rs10,000 and Moktan received Rs25,000.
There will be two matches on Saturday with Dhangadhi FC taking on FC Chitwan in the early kick-off while Butwal Lumbini FC will vie against Biratnagar City FC.
Team P W D L GF GA Pts
Butwal Lumbini 2 1 1 0 4 2 4
Dhangadhi 3 1 1 1 4 4 4
Pokhara 3 1 1 1 1 2 4
Kathmandu 3 1 1 1 1 3 4
Biratnagar 2 1 0 1 3 1 3
Chitwan 2 0 2 0 3 3 2
Lalitpur. 3 0 2 1 2 3 2