Prime Minister Cup: Nepal Red thorugh semi-finals

KATHMANDU, March 11: Nepal Red defeated the Pakistani national side 1-0 to secure a berth in the semifinals of the Prime Minister´s Cup being played out at Dasarath Stadium. Nepali spectators made their presence felt and cheered the home side to victory. Nepal´s first and only goal of the match came when a corner was headed home by Jumanu Rai. The ball took a deflection off the Pakistan side and went on to hit the net.
First half
Nepal received a corner in the very first minute of the match. Bijay Gurung´s corner was safely cleared by Pakistan´s Mahmood Khan who was guarding the d-box. Nepal´s Sandip Rai tested his luck from a few meters off the middle of the pitch but Pakistani Goal keeper Jaffar Khan (returning to the side after one and a half years) proved equal to the challenge and made a low sweeping catch in the middle of the goal post. Pakistan´s hopes of advancing to the next round nearly received a boost when Mohammad Rasool struck from 30 yards in the 25th minute. The Nepali goalie was hoodwinked and was on the wrong side but Nepal´s Biraj Maharjan foiled the attempt by making a clearance. Pakistan received a freekick from 23 yards after Nepal´s Bijay Gurung took down Pakistan´s Safi Ullah Khan. But the freekick went sailing over the goal post. The second half ended with Pakistan´s Essa Khan´s being safely caught by Nepali goalie Bikash Malla. The first half ended in a goalless draw as neither team could latch onto their scoring chances.
Second half
The 48th minute saw Nepal´s Anjan Kc try for a goal from 23 yards but the ball went above the goal post. Raju Tamang attempted a goal off Bijay Gurung´s corner in the 52nd minute but he could not make any contact with the ball. Nepal´s fortunes changed when Jumanu Rai´s header off Raju Tamang´s corner went past Pakistani custodian Jaffar Khan after taking a deflection from Mohammad Imran, who had come in only after the first half. Both teams posed no serious threat in the final stages of the match. Pakistan couldn´t make use of the corner that it received in the dying moments. Pakistan goalie Jaffar Khan accompanied his team mates at Nepal´s d-box to try and force a draw. But Abdul Aziz´s corner was safely gathered by Nepali goalie Bikash Malla.

Pakistan team manager Syed Nasir Ismah said he was not impressed by the performance of the linesmen who hail from Nepal. "The organizers should have arranged for neutral linesmen. Because the home team is playing and many times you cannot judge as they are local it is the mindset." He also said that this tournament was an opportunity for the youngsters to show their stuff and prepare for the upcoming AFC challenge. Nepali skipper Rakesh Shrestha appreciated the way Pakistan played. He accredited his whole team for the win. Nepal(Red) enter into the semis as group winners while Aram Bagh qualify for the next round as runner-ups. Nepal is to take on JW team of Thailand in the second semifinal on Friday. The first semifinal is to be played between Aram Bagh of Bangladesh and the Sri Lankan national team.

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