AFC President's Cup 2009: NPC to take on Regar Tadaz today

Kathmandu, May 18 - Nepal Police Club are on the verge of making an early exit from the 5th AFC President´s cup. And they have only themselves to blame: their uninspired play in the two games played so far means that the policemen have to overcome astronomical odds to move on to the next stage. From their very first match on, which they lost to Taiwan Power Company (TPC) 3-2, NPC´s performance has been nothing to write home about. Against the team from Taiwan, below-par performances by the NPC on both ends of the pitch saw to the team´s chalking up a stinker: their forwards and wingers failed to convert easy chances, and goalkeeper, Ritesh Thapa, allowed in a howler.

Police coach Birat Shrestha doesn´t mince words when talking about that performance, “We lost to TPC because of our own lapses. We made costly mistakes.” And with the TPC physically dominating the policemen and winning all the aerial battles, the policemen´s coming up lame rubbed that much rawer on all their fans. In their second game, against WAPDA Pakistan, NPC should have put the game away early, during the middle, and at the end. But the NPC were held to a goalless draw, “in a 70-30 match” (as coach Birat Shrestha put it): the policemen ran circles around WAPDA throughout the game, and yet they couldn´t capitalize on all the chances they created for themselves. The match was so lopsided that the first half seemed like a mini battle between the police´s strikers and the Pakistani goalie. In the second half, NPC still dominated, even though they had used up most of the fuel in their tank in the first half. But as Pakistani Coach Khalid Butt noted, the NPC couldn´t keep up the intensity. The team´s series of unfortunate events for the day culminated with the WAPDA´s goalpost playing defense during the dying moments of the game.

NPC will take on defending champions Regar Tadaz in the final matchup of group A. But even if NPC somehow come through and win, their chances of qualifying for the next round, though mathematically possible ,is pretty bleak: for the police to go through, NPC WAPDA and TPC need to play to a draw in the first match of the day, while NPC needs to beat Tadaz by a huge margin. And even the “Best Runners Up” spot looks beyond reach for the policemen, as they are yet to win a single game in the tournament. Match preview for MondayTadaz-- dubbed the strongest team in the pool by Police coach Birat Shrestha-- have already won the title twice (2005,2008). In the two matches they´ve played in Kathmandu in this tournament, Tadaz played to a goalless draw against WAPDA in the first match, and defeated TPC 3-1, in the second. Tadaz and NPC last played each other in the 4th edition of AFC President´s Cup, in a match that ended in a 2-2 draw. NPC had been all set to wrap up the match, until Ibragim Rabimov struck home an injury-time equalizer. Tadaz then qualified for the next round as group winners, while NPC qualified as the best runners up among all the groups.

In Monday´s match, NPC´s hopes rest on strikers Ju Manu Rai and Chetan Ghimire, both of whom hit pay dirt in the last encounter with Tadaz. But this time around, with the policemen mired in a slump, the strikers need to, in a jiffy, regain their knack for finding the net. Furthermore, with defender Rakesh Shrestha already having sustained an injury, and with NPC´s midfield not playing to par, the onus is on the strikers to see NPC through.

Head to Head

1. June 26, 2008 (Tursunzoda MPPJ Stadium, Malaysia)
Mahendra Police Club 2 - 2 Regar-Tadaz

2. September 27, 2007 (Punjab Stadium, Lahore)
Regar TadAZ 1 - 2 Mahendra Police Club

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