NIBL Friends take Lalitpur derby honours

KATHMANDU, DEC 24 - Azad Pradhan scored once and set up another as NIBL Friends Club opened up their British Gurkha Cup campaign with a 2-0 win over their Lalitpur neigbhours Samsung Jawalakhel Youth Club at the Dashrath Stadium on Wednesday.

Pradhan put Friends in front just 16 minutes into the game connecting a corner from Pukar Gahaj Raj, and set up a header for Nirjan Khadka from a corner in the stoppage time after their opponents were reduced to 10-man on 74th minute. The win put Friends at top of Group A with three points.

The Kupandole-based club Friends were beyond the reach of Jawalakhel in the first 45 minutes, making plenty of movements inside their opponent's half and could have produced an even more resounding win had they converted some of the myriad of the chances that came their way. But the one-sided affair leveled off in the second half with Jawalakhel dominating possession; however, all their hopes of a comeback went up in smokes when they lost striker Prabin Manadhar 74 minutes into the game after a second yellow.

Friends Coach Mrigendra Mishra wasn't pleased despite his team's win. Although six players in his lineup were in closed camp for the South Asian Games, he said, the team could not play to their potential. He vowed a better performance in their next outing against Nepal Police on Saturday.

In the second half, the first clear chance fell to Friends on 61st minute when Bharat Khwas' one-on-one header against the advancing keeper sailed past the post. Jawalakhel could have easily equalised seven minutes later had Prabin Maharjan showed some composure in front of the goal mouth when he had just the keeper to beat with acres of space. Maharjan was unhindered when he received a rebound from a Jaghu Nath Khadka's header that was saved by keeper Rupak Shrestha. In the end, Maharajn shot the ball way off the target.

With a numerical advantage over their opponents, Friends created a host of chances but could only cash in on one. The first came their way three minutes from time. Kushal Shrestha received a loose ball parried by Jawalakhel keeper from Bharat Khawas' attempt. Upon receiving the pass, Shrestha tamely guided his shot for the keeper to deny with his stretched legs. Friends made the pressure pay in the first minute of the injury time from Nirjan Khadka's header.

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