Machhindra secure second spot as relegation drama continuesKumar KC’s side overcome Sherpa 3-1 to book their place in the AFC Cup preliminary round. APF, Three Star, Friends and Khumaltar are still fighting for survival.
Machhindra Club guaranteed a second-position finish in the Martyrs Memorial ‘A’ Division League with a 3-1 victory over Himalayan Sherpa Club in a bad tempered match at the Dasharath Stadium on Wednesday.
Machhindra’s hopes to win a third consecutive trophy ended on Tuesday after Church Boys United drew with Nepal Police Club 0-0 to clinch their historic title in their debut season. CBU also matched Manang Marshyangdi Club’s record of 1986 by winning ‘C’, ‘B’ and ‘A’ divisions in consecutive seasons.
Despite lifting the crown, CBU became ineligible to participate in the 2023-24 AFC Cup preliminary round in the capacity of domestic champions as they are yet to obtain AFC Club licence which is mandatory for participation in the AFC tournaments.
That left Machhindra something to fight for.
Bimal Gharti Magar opened the scoring in the 26th minute with a header off a cross from Pujan Uperkoti.
Machhindra doubled their lead in the 68th minute when Olawale Afeez, who was left unmarked, headed from close range after Yuta Suzuki set him up with a cross from the left.
League’s top scorer Afeez then won a penalty and sent Sherpa goalkeeper Krishal Mokktan the wrong way to add his 21st goal of the season and his team’s third of the game. Machhindra were awarded a penalty after Abayomi Oluwaseun Fakunle badly challenged Afeez inside the box.
Tempers ran high toward the end of the second half after Machhindra goalkeeper Bishal Shrestha came out of the box and tackled Fakunle, who was at full speed and aiming to complete a Sherpa counter attack.
Sherpa players protested claiming for a penalty and goalkeeper Shrestha, who was initially shown a yellow card, was sent off after referee Umesh Bidari changed his mind.
But a brawl erupted between Machhindra’s Omolaja Nurain Kareem and Sherpa’s Nisan Limbu after the Nigerian slapped the latter. Limbu ended up being sent off for his aggression while Kareem escaped with a yellow.
The match saw a total of nine yellows and two reds.
Pistone Vunyoli Mutamba took the resulting free kick and his shot hit the crossbar before finding its way past makeshift goalkeeper Nabin Silwal.
Machhindra ended the match on a position note securing their spot in the AFC Cup preliminary round with a match in hand.
In spite of the loss, Sherpa, who have 31 points, secured their stay in the country’s premier division league after Friends played a 1-1 draw against Sankata Club in the day’s late fixture, also at the Dasharath Stadium.
Friends took the lead in the 53rd minute when Torric Jebren danced past four Sankata defenders and launched his venomous strike into the back of the net leaving Sankata goalkeeper Tikendra Singh Thapa helpless.
But Junior Onguene equalised in the 70th minute with a solo effort saving Sankata from relegation. With the draw, Sankata now have 31 points from 25 matches.
New Road Team are also out of threat after Dipesh Ale Magar’s goal proved decisive in their 1-0 victory over Manang Marshyangdi Club. NRT moved up to sixth position with 33 points.
Wednesday’s outcomes leave Khumaltar Youth Club (14th position), Friends (13th), Three Star (12th) and Armed Police Club (11th) still in the survival battle that has gone down to the last round.
Three Star, on 29 points, can secure their safety with a win over Jawalakhel Youth Club.
Khumaltar, who are in action against champions CBU, are the most vulnerable among the four sides.
Bottom-placed Khumaltar (27 points) must defeat CBU and hope Three Star and Friends, who are in action against APF, lose to have any chance of survival.
APF need only a draw against Friends but their opponents are in a do-or-die situation.