Ganesh Khadka headed ANFA in front in the first half. His strike was neutralised by Vikram Saini in the last minute of the injury time, taking the game into a tiebreaker. It was a mixed day for Khadka as he was denied by the upright in the shootout after Sandeep Malik, the first penalty taker of the opposing team was thwarted by goalkeeper Dinesh Thapa.
ANFA, clearly the better side throughout the game, could have put the game to bed easily in the first half itself but some missed opportunities by skipper Nirajan Malla, who was later adjudged the player of the match, saw them go down in penalties for the second consecutive time in the last two weeks. They had crashed out of the recently held Aaha Gold Cup in Pokhara going down to top flight Nabil Three Star Club 5-4 in penalties.
Nirjan Malla had a chance to make a mark in the game as early as the sixth minute when Ganesh Khadka fed him a free header inside the penalty box. But Malla was unable to give his header a proper direction. Minutes later, Malla again missed a simple tap-in from close range supplied by Sujal Shrestha. Sabindra Shrethas's free kick from 30-yards out sailed inches above the cross bar.
Hariyana almost punished ANFA for their missed chances through Jaswant Sharma in the 30th minute but his shot flew inches above the bar. After a series of misses, Ganesh Khadka gave ANFA something to cheer about in the 31st minute, planting his header in the topcorner from Sujal Shrestha's cross. Amity United, who could seldom threaten ANFA except in the wee hours of the game, opted for a physical play but the referee was reluctant to give them any warning.
ANFA had a lackluster second half and could have gone down had it not been for some brave defending by Naresh Pokhrel and Ravi Thapa. Naresh Pokhrel cleared a shot from the goalmouth in the 57th minute when keeper Dinesh Thapa was beaten; Jaswanth Sharma missed a clear header from close range. Ravi Thapa was denied a similar opportunity towards the end of the game. Just when victory was within the touching distance of ANFA, Amity United equalised from a goalmouth melee through Vikrum Saini in the injury time (90+3) to spell doom for ANFA, who have not been able to break their jinx of loosing in penalties since the last couple of years.
ANFA boss Kishor K.C. cursed the team's bad luck in crashing out in penalties for the second time in two weeks. "We went down despite giving a tough fight," said K.C. "On both the occasions, we had the lead but could not defend it. And the referee was also not up to the mark."
Source: The Kathmandu Post