Rai steers Three Star to quarterfinal



GANGTOK, Oct 25: Nabil Three Star Club toiled hard to register an extra time 1-0 win over Indian outfit Pune FC on Monday in the 32nd All India Governor´s Gold Cup Football Tournament at the Paljor Stadium in Gangtok, Sikkim.

Substitute Raju Rai scored in the 21st minute of added time to change the course of the match that was heading toward tiebreaker.

Rai, who came in for Anil Ojha in the 86th minute after Ojha picked up minor injuries, scored a brilliant goal on the second bar from the box in a long pass of Buddha Chemjong to stun the advancing goalie.

This is the first goal of Rai in his sixth appearance for Three Star following his move from Boys Union in the current season. "When I got the ball I thought I couldn´t score, but the goalie moved ahead and it became easy for me to score," Rai told Republica after the match.

Three Star will now take on Bengal Mumbai FC in the quarterfinal on Wednesday.

This is the first victory for Three Star in the new season. In the Bordoloi Cup held last month in Assam, India, Three Star had played two goalless draws in the group stage to make it to the semifinal, which they won in a tiebreaker, and then lost the final match. In the San Miguel Knockout Football Tournament held about two months ago in Kathmandu, they had crashed out from their first match following a tiebreaker loss to the Armed Police Force.

Three Star came up with an attractive show in the match to delight their supporters who had gathered in the stadium with Nepal´s national flag. Three Star played a technical game with short passes and low ball against the physically dominant opponents who came up with a physical show and long aerial passes.

However, Three Star failed to convert their opportunities despite their huge dominance in ball possession. They frequently took the ball to the opponent´s danger zone but failed to score. The midfield team consisting of Bharat Khawas, Anil Ojha, Yogesh Gurung and Prabin Karki supported the forwards with abundant passes.

Three Star coach Meghraj KC remained satisfied with the overall performance of the team. "Overall the team performed well and followed the instructions. The defense and midfield was excellent but the forwards couldn´t play well," KC said, adding, "I had sent Rai hoping that he would do some magic despite fitness problem, and he materialized that."

The first on-target post attempt for Three Star came two minutes before the interval. Bharat Khawas fired a close-range shot from an acute angle after beating three opponent players but it was punched to safety by goalie Soram Poirei.

In the 70th minute, Three Star narrowly missed a scoring chance when Bijay Dhimal´s beautiful header in Bishnu Sunuwar´s cross deflected after hitting the bar. Yogesh Gurung´s attempt on the rebound was foiled by a Pune FC defender.

Pune FC made about a couple of post attacks, all from long distance. In the 44th minute, Rollingson Hungyo´s powerful freekick was punched away by glovesman Kiran Chemjong. Pune FC were unlucky when the referee blowed the interval whistle while the freekick taken by them was still in the air and later entered inside the net. A minute earlier, in the stoppage time of the first half, Bikash Singh Chhetri had cleared a ball from near the goalline when goalie Chemjong was been beaten.

Pune FC coach and technical director Ranjan Chaudhary said all but one of the players fielded in the team were U-19 players. He lauded the attitude and motivation of his young side, while also praising the ball possession of the opponents.

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