Three Star won the knockout football tournament in the capital for the first time after being elevated to the first division in 1982. With the win, they pocketed a cash prize of one million rupees while runners up MMC bagged Rs 500,000. The tournament carries the biggest cash prize in the history of Nepali knockout football tournament.
Second half goals from the best forward of the tournament Santosh Sahukhala and skipper Pradeep Maharjan gave them the emphatic win over the young players of MMC.
Santosh opened the scoring in the 59th minute through a header from the box in a long pass of Anjan KC after the first half remained goalless despite Three Star dominating the entire match from the beginning. Pradeep Maharjan sealed the match during the stoppage time with a strike from the edge of box in a pass of Santosh set by Surendra Tamang.
Three Star, backed by a huge number of local fans, intensified their attacks from the beginning against the young MMC players, eight of whom are ANFA academy products. However, they were bound to wait until the second half to quench their thirst of scoring. The MMC defending lineup remained a major obstacle for Three Star to score in the first half.
MMC could make only a couple of attempts during the entire match.
Bijay Gurung of Three Star, adjudged the best player of the tournament, squandered a one-on-one chance with goalie Kiran Chemjong in the 10th minute. In the 24th minute, Pradeep´s powerful strike from the edge of the box was dived and saved by Kiran.
In the 49th minute, Santosh squandered a golden opportunity of scoring from a close range as he failed to direct the ball toward the net in a cross supplied by Pradeep while the custodian was already beaten.
Bijay twice squandered good chances in the second half. In the 56th minute, Bijay had sent the ball past the net but the referee ruled it as offside. In the 84th minute, Sandeep Rai´s powerful freekick from about 35 yards was brilliantly punched away by the goalkeeper.
For MMC, Shiva Shrestha missed a chance of equalizing the score in the 64th minute as his shot went above the bar from the box while glovesman Kiran Chemjong was beaten. Earlier, in the 34th minute, Jagjeet Shrestha´s powerful strike from the right side went inches above the bar.
Three Star coach Bal Gopal Maharjan said that the victory was the result of collective effort of the players, the management and the coach. “The win was the result of hard work from all sides of the team. Besides this, the two years coaching from the AFC to me also helped hone the players´ skills,” Maharjan said.
Three Star skipper Pradeep, who took charge of the team from the second match, said he was very much delighted by the win. Pradeep, who returned to the ground after being sidelined due to knee injury for one and half years, said that the win was historic. “I wanted to prove that a player could make a comeback after a long time injury and I did it,” Pradeep said.
MMC coach Chhiring Lopsang said that they had taken this tournament as the trial for the upcoming ´A´ division league. He also expressed satisfaction toward overall performance of the team in the tournament. “The players played well and threw a tough challenge to the Three Star consisting of senior players.” He added, “Lack of marking opponent players became the turning point of the match as they scored utilizing the weakness.”