KATHMANDU, June 6: Sunday was disappointing for the two departmental teams -- Nepal Police Club and Army Club -- in the Martyrs Memorial San Miguel ´A´ Division Football League.
Champions and leaders Police were held to a 1-1 draw by Samsung Jawalakhel Youth Club and Nepal Army Club were humiliated 3-1 by NIBL Friends Club at the Dasharath Stadium.
Police, however, continued to remain on the top spot with 43 points, a three-point lead over second place New Road Team (NRT), with three more matches to go. Despite the draw, Jawalakhel dropped one spot to eighth position as Friends, who were in ninth place, leapfrogged to sixth position with 24 points. Army retained fourth place with 33 points.
Police, who had shared points in the first leg playing a 2-2 stalemate with Jawalakhel, took a 29th minute lead over Jawalakhel through a goal from Parbat Pandey. Pandey headed home the opener from the box in a pass of Ramesh Budhathoki, who came up in the role of captain for the first time in the league.
However, Raj Kumar Ghising of Jawalakhel scored an equalizer in the 74th minute. Ghising beat goalie Ritesh Thapa and sent the ball past the net in a pass of Suraj Gurung.
Police dominated the first half of the match and made four post attacks but a heroic display by goalie Min Basnet prevented Police from scoring on several occasions. Skipper Budhathoki squandered goal-scoring opportunities twice. Jawalakhel were unable to make impressive post attacks.
Police coach Birat Krishna Shrestha lamented sharing of vital points. He said that his side conceded the equalizer since defenders could not mark opponents properly.
Jawalakhel coach Suman Yonzan said that his side was able to prove their capability by holding the Police to a draw. "We had aimed to win, but I am satisfied with the draw."
In another match, Nirajan Khadka scored a brace for Friends who had defeated Army 1-0 in the first leg. The goals took Khadka´s tally to five in the league. Rajan Adhikari added another goal for Friends. Defender Chun Bahadur Thapa netted the consolation for Army.
Khadka opened the account in the 35th minute through a powerful strike from about 30 yards to stun Army goalie and skipper Bikash Malla. Adhikari doubled the lead in the 54th minute through a header from the box in a cross by Bharat Khawas. Khadka again scored calmly from the box with six minutes remaining controlling a rebound off goalie Malla in a strike made by Adhikari.
Thapa made a superb 35-yard strike to score the only goal for the team. Army made about half a dozen post attacks but many of them were rendered futile by goalie Sagar Gurung.
Following the defeat, Army coach Raju Kaji Shakya said that now his team has moved out of the title race. "The boys failed to utilize chances and there were no good supplies from the midfield," said Shakya.
Friends´ assistant coach Ramesh Maharjan said that they succeeded in their aim of defeating the Army to keep their fight for the top five position alive.