KATHMANDU, Jan 7: Nabil Three Star Club were lucky to secure semifinal berth as the stoppage time penalty helped them defeat arch rival Nepal Police Club 2-1 on Thursday in the ongoing British Gurkha Cup Football Tournament being held at the Dasharath Stadium.
Santosh Sahukala scored the decider in the first minute of the stoppage in a penalty after Rabin Shrestha of the police team’s hand-ball inside the box in the competitive match that featured physical performance from both the sides.
Earlier, the police team had taken the lead in the 21st minute through skipper Ananta Thapa. Ananta scored from box in a short chest pass set by Jumanu Rai from a long pass off Rabin.
However, Three Star equalized the scoring five minutes later through Bijay Gurung after police glovesman Ritesh Thapa committed an error of judgment. Bijay netted in a scuffle after Ritesh dropped the ball in an attempt to handle a long cross of Anjan KC and Bijay did not make spare a chance to convert it.
The police dominated the first 20 minutes of the match. But soon after entry of Santosh Sahukala in the 23rd minute Three Star caught the tune. Police custodian Ritesh Thapa saved a superb header of skipper Pradeep Maharjan from goal line in the 24th minute in a cross of Bikash Singh Chhetri. Likewise, Santosh’s dominant strike from the box rolled on to the inner bar of the post and came outside the goal line after dropping in the goal line. In the 70th minute Santosh and French striker Jocelyn Moran Pierce squandered an opportunity each for Three Star.
For police, Jumanu missed one versus one chance with goalie Kiran Chemjong in the 53rd minute as Kiran kept him from scoring. In 40th minute, Jumanu’s strike from the edge of box went wide. In the 20th minute, Ananta’s header in a corner of Bhola Silwal skied above the bar.
The last time the police team met Three Star was in the final of the Players Cup Football Tournament in June 2009. The police team then had thrashed Three Star 5-1.
Three Star coach Bal Gopal Maharjan said that the team’s spirit had a key role in winning the match. Pleased with the team’s performance he said, “All players played well and confidently.”
Police coach Birat Krishna Shrestha said that the team failed to build up confidence. “Had we played by holding a ball after we scored we could have won but the players did not do so.”
He also pointed out the weakness of defenders in losing the match. “Three Star changed positions randomly. Had our defenders marked them individually we might not have lost the match,” Birat Krishna said.
Three Star will now meet the winner between the Rani Pokhari Corner Team (RCT) and Friends Club to be held on Friday in the semifinal.