AFC President's Cup 2009: Misfiring NPC on brink of elimnation

Kathmandu, May 17 - Nepal Police Club (NPC) once again disappointed the home crowd playing a goalless draw against WAPDA of Pakistan in the AFC President’s Cup Group ‘A’ qualifying tournament here at the Dasharath Stadium. The departmental team squandered more than half a dozen goal scoring chances in the first half alone and a couple in the latter half.

The result meant NPC have a faint hope of qualifying for the semi-finals. They can still advance provided the home team register a resounding win against the defending champions Regar TadAZ of Tajikistan and hope WAPDA and Taiwan Power Company of Chinese Taipei play a draw in the last round matches on Monday. Regar TadAZ lead the standings with four points, one more than TPC. WAPDA have two points and NPC are at the bottom with one after losing their first match against Taiwan 3-2 on Thursday. In an one sided first half, Policemen Ju Manu Rai, Chetan Ghimire, Yogesh Shrestha and Dipak Poudel all missed the target. With only WAPDA goalkeeper Aziz to beat, Yogesh hit the woodwork following a pass from Bhola Silwal in the third minute. Ju Manu was denied by Aziz six minutes later when a WAPDA defender mispassed the ball to the NPC striker. Chetan was unlucky when his shot was cleared from the goal line following a goal mouth melee in the 23rd minute. Yogesh was also denied by the woodwork in the 30th minute as his freekick from the edge of the box rebounded off the bar. And a minute later unmarked Chetan headed inches off the target.

In the 42nd minute, Dipak’s attempted cross inside the box almost turned into a goal but Aziz fingered the ball away for a corner. Ju Manu had yet another opportunity five minutes after the break but the striker shot off the target. WAPDA goalkeeper Aziz, who was later named the most valuable player, again rescued his team, making a brilliant save in the 55th minute, denying Chetan’s powerful bicycle kick. The home crowd came alive when national team skipper and veteran NPC defender Rakesh Shrestha pressed himself forward cutting through as many as four defenders before releasing powerful strike only to be denied by Aziz. The defender, however, injured himself in the process and was substituted by Pankaj Shahi. The NPC could have still walked away with three points had not Ju Manu missed a sitter deep into the second half injury time. Fed inside the box and with only Aziz to beat, the striker shot straight to the goalkeeper. Parbat Pandey also had an opportunity to score in the rebound but shot just wide.

“We had to share a point despite dominating the match entirely,” said NPC coach Birat Krishna Shrestha. NPC are on the brink of elimination after losing points against the two teams — TPC and WAPDA — whom Shrestha rated as weaker opponents. “We just needed a breakthrough which did not come despite numerous attempts,” said the coach adding that one goal would have opened gates for few more. Speaking on his team’s chances of qualifying, Shrestha said: “Mathematically, we are still in contention to qualify for the semi-finals. For that we need to win our match and hope other two teams play draw,” said Shrestha.

WAPDA coach Khalid Butt expressed satisfaction. “Although, we were hoping the collect three points, we are happy as they (NPC) played very good football especially in the first half,” said Khalid. Khalid also pointed out NPC’s lack of match fitness. “They (NPC) ran out of stamina in the second half,” added Khalid.

In the tensed second match ten-man defending champions Regar TadAZ of Tajikistan beat nine-man Taiwan Power Company of Chinese Taipei (TPC) 3-1 in the AFC President’s Cup Group ‘A’ qualifying tournament match marred by flurry of cautions and three sent offs here on Saturday. Ibragim Rabimov, Maruf Rustamov and Sardorbek Eminov scored for the defending champions while Ching Jen Fan replied for TPC. In the roughly contested match, TPC were reduced to 10 men when striker Po Yuan Lin was sent off straight away for his back tackle on Ibragim Rabimov in the 16th minute. Regar TadAZ capitalised on one man advantage to take the lead in the 28th minute. Rabimov slotted in past the TPC goalie Wei Chih Pan following a corner kick from Jamshed Ismoilov. The match turned even uglier when the players resorted to brawl forcing Japanese referee Ogiya Kenji to evict a player each from both the sides. While Hasan Rustamov of Regar TadAZ was sent off for his second yellow, Ming Feng Tu of TPC received a direct red card after they were engaged in a scuffle. Despite playing with nine men, TPC found the equaliser in the 79th through a pass from Fang. Regar TadAZ scored two goals in three minutes to seal the victory. Rustamov made in 2-1 in the 83rd minute before Eminov ensured they claim all three points scoring in the 85th minute.

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