Sabin Memorial reach ‘A’ Division Futsal playoffsThe Pokhara-based side overcome Sankhamul 3-1 and book their place in the eliminator after Futsal 5 succumbed to a 6-2 defeat against Prabhatpheri.
Sabin Memorial secured their place in the playoffs of the 'A' Division National Futsal League with a 3-1 victory over Sankhamul Futsal at the Pokhara covered hall in Pokhara on Tuesday.
Sankhamul had already qualified for the playoffs before the match and a win would have guaranteed them a mouth-watering clash against Sports Castle in the qualifier 1. Instead, it was The Rising Club who ended in the second position. They will meet the table toppers in the battle for a direct final berth.
The loss means Sankhamul finished third in the 10-team standings with 18 points and will face the same opponents in the eliminator.
Sabin Memorial headed into Tuesday's late match with a must-win situation. Their task was made easier after Futsal 5 succumbed to a surprise 6-2 defeat against third-from-bottom club Prabhatpheri Youth Club earlier in the day.
Had Futsal 5 emerged victorious, they would have added three more points to their 14 ending Sabin Memorial's—who had 13 points —slim hopes of qualifying for the playoffs at their home ground before the final round.
But Futsal 5's embarrassing loss boosted Sabin Memorial's chances and Samir Pradhan, Manish Chhetri and Sunil BK capitalised on them.
Pradhan put Sabin Memorial in front just before the break and Chhetri doubled the advantage in the 24th minute. Sankhamul's Susaan Shrestha pulled one back a minute later but BK ensured Sabin Memorial overthrew Futsal 5 in fourth position and qualified for the eliminator with a 34th minute strike. The loss also ended Sankhamul's unbeaten run in the league.
"Great match!" said Sabin Memorial coach Rajendra Tamang. “We were in a must-win situation to advance, which we did. Our target was to finish inside the top four."
"Sankhamul are a very strong team. Our only strategy was a counter-attacking game. We played a defensive match and were able to score in counter-attacks," added Tamang.
He also credited the enthusiastic home crowd for the team’s win.
"We were not expecting supporters in the morning. But when Futsal 5 suffered defeat, it opened us a window of opportunity. The supporters arrived at the hall afterwards and boosted our confidence," he said.
The first qualifier between Sports Castle and Rising, and the eliminator between Sankhamul and Sabin Memorial will be held on Wednesday. The winners of the first qualifier will directly advance into the final—set for Friday—while the losing side will still have a chance to reach the final when they face the winners of the eliminator on Thursday.
"We will have to play against Sankhamul again tomorrow [in the eliminator]. We expect the match to be tougher than today" said Tamang.
Sankhamul coach Prakash Pariyar said the loss was disappointing.
"We wanted to head into the playoffs maintaining an unbeaten streak. But that ended in the final round," said Pariyar. "Our players gave their best today. Unfortunately we could not score."
“They also had home support which changed the dynamics of the game. We need to make some improvements in our playing strategy tomorrow. I believe we will avenge today's defeat in the eliminator."
Earlier, Futsal 5 needed a win to secure their spot in the top four but fell to their knees against a much weaker side Prabhatpheri, thanks to braces from Dhiraj Joshi and Dona Thapa.
Joshi's quick double in the 5th minute gave Prabhatpheri a two-goal cushion and Santa Lal Gurung furthered the lead in the 17th minute. Sandip Karki tried to bring Futsal 5 back into the game with a 20th minute goal but Prabhatpheri's Thapa added another five minutes after the break and Bibek Saru Magar extended the advantage a minute later. Nayal Shrestha cut the deficit in the 30th minute but it was too late for Futsal 5. The 40th minute strike by Prabhatpheri’s Thapa rounded off the victory for his team.
The result was a consolation victory for Prabhatpheri who finished eighth in the league with 10 points after managing just three wins.
In the other match of the day, Dhuku Futsal inflicted another defeat to winless and already-relegated Jharana Sports Club with a 5-3 victory. Suman Tamang, Dawa Dukpa Sherpa, Amit Lama, Prasiddha Magar and Urken Sherpa scored for Dhuku.
Ganga Gurung, Prabesh Khanal Chhetri and Amit Gurung got on the scoresheet for Jharana.
The win helped Dhuku topple Sky Goals in sixth on head-to-head difference rule. Both Dhuku and Sky Goals have 13 points.
Lumbini Futsal were the other team to be relegated from the league.