KATHMANDU, Sept 29: Playing top level football for the first time, Himalayan Sherpa Club (HSC) made it to the final of the San Miguel Knockout Football Tournament on Wednesday defeating 10-man Armed Police Force 2-1 at the Dasharath Stadium.
Jagjeet Shrestha and Som Bahadur Malla scored in either half for the newcomers to set up the title clash with New Road Team (NRT) scheduled for Monday. Substitute Deepak Khadka pulled one back for APF four minutes from time.
On Tuesday, NRT had knocked out another departmental team, Nepal Police Club, with a 3-2 win in penalty shootout.
The first goal for HSC came off APF goalie Samit Rajbhandari’s rebounder on a freekick taken by Deepak Rai after Jeevan Sinkeman of APF was slapped with a second yellow card in the 45th minute for a bookable offense against scorer Shrestha. Shrestha sprinted inside the box and hit the rebounder to open the scoring in the second minute of the stoppage time.
Earlier, Sinkeman was shown the first yellow card in the 15th minute by referee Sudish Pandey.
Malla added another goal with a solo effort to double the advantage in the 79th minute, sprinting with the ball from ahead of the box and beating goalie Rajbhandari. Malla took advantage of his unmarked position even as APF defenders were unsuccessfully trying to build an offside trap.
“The referee’s wrong decision of showing the second yellow card cost dear for the team,” APF assistant coach Janak Singh Tharu said after the match. “The boys came under pressure after conceding the red card.”
The only goal for APF came in the 86th minute through substitute Khadka who headed in from an unmarked position utilizing a cross off Nurraj Kafle from close range. However, APF failed to materialize their dream of leveling the score as they could not find the back of the net in the remaining time of the match.
Earlier, in the competitive match, both sides missed about half a dozen scoring opportunities. Goalie Rupak Shrestha denied APF a second minute lead when he punched Nirajan Malla’s shot from below the bar. Goalie Shrestha then foiled Ganesh Lawati’s header for APF in the 38th minute.
In the second half, Lawati squandered more than two scoring opportunities. In the 56th minute, he failed to convert an easy scoring chance with only the goalie to beat as he could not meet Amir Shrestha’s pass.
For HSC, Deepak Rai’s and scorer Shrestha’s powerful on-target freekicks were saved by APF custodian Samit Rajbhandari. In the 62nd minute, Rai’s powerful close range strike rebounded hitting the pole, and in the 81st minute too Rai failed to score when his 25-yard shot skied touching the bar.
HSC coach Upendraman Singh lauded his players for their great effort. “The credit for this victory goes to the hard effort of the players and the management, and I am thankful to them for their coordination,” Singh said. Despite making to the final, he said, his target was to put up a good show rather than to lift the title.