KATHMANDU, June 2: Bharat Khawas scored four goals as defending champion Nepal Police Club extended its unbeaten run to seven matches and consolidated its position at the top of the table with a convincing 5-2 win over Saraswoti Youth Club in the Martyrs Memorial Red Bull A Division League at the Halchowk ground on Thursday.
At the Dasharath Stadium, a lone goal from Jagjeet Shrestha against Swayambhu Club helped Yeti Airlines Himalayan Sherpa Club maintain its unbeaten run in the league.
In the earlier kickoff of the day, Ganesh Lawati scored his second consecutive hat-trick in the tournament during Armed Police Force (APF)´s 7-1 humiliation of top-flight debutant United Youth Club. It was also the second consecutive win for APF which had a dismal start to the league.
With the win, Police, which will now face Swayambhu, maintained its grip at the top of the table with 19 points at least for 48 hours while Sherpa leapfrogged to second place from fifth with 17 points. APF climbed three spots to 11th with six points. United and Swayambhu remained second and third from the bottom with one and three points respectively in the 18-team contest.
Bharat Khawas gave Police an early lead in the third minute, doubled the tally in the 37th and completed his second hat-trick of the league in the 53rd minute. He scored his fourth and last goal for the team in the 79th minute, four minutes after highest scorer Jumanu Rai netted his 13th league goal. Khawas, who had earlier scored a hat-trick against Brigade Boys Club, in now the league´s second highest scorer with 10 goals. Santosh Sahukhala of Manang Marshyangdi Club (MMC) is in third position with seven goals.
Ramesh Ghising scored the first goal for Saraswoti in the 77th minute while Krishna Gopal Shrestha netted the second in the stoppage time.
At the Dasharath Stadium, Jagjeet Shrestha was the hero for Himalayan Sherpa as he scored the only goal of the game in the 10th minute. Shrestha scored from close range utilizing a cross from Som Bahadur Malla in a pass set up by skipper Sagar Thapa. Shrestha, however, failed to convert a penalty in the 63rd minute as Swayambhu´s African goalie Emmanual made a beautiful long-stretch dive to deny him. Sherpa was awarded the penalty by referee Shrawan Lama after Shrestha was brought down by Anil Tamang inside the box.
Despite having a couple of well-known names in Nepali football and African recruits, Sherpa failed to utilize other scoring opportunities against the low-profile opponent which is enjoying top-flight football for the first time.
Sherpa coach Upendraman Singh lauded the opponent goalkeeper´s performance but expressed dissatisfaction toward his Tanzanian midfielder Castory D Mumbara. "He did not play up to his full potential and we need to rethink about him if he continued with such attitude in the future too," said Singh, who was not satisfied with his team´s performance despite the win.
Singh´s counterpart Raju Tamang lamented the lack of quality forwards in his team. He said he expects difficult days ahead as his side will face tough opponents.
For the departmental team APF, Ganesh Lawati scored thrice and Jeevan Sinkeman netted a brace while Top Bahadur Bista and Niraj Shrestha scored apiece. Lawati scored his first goal in the 42nd minute after Bista gave the team a 19th minute lead and Sinkeman doubled the tally in the 25th minute. Lawati scored his second goal two minutes after the interval and completed his hat-trick on 64 minutes.
Similarly, Sinkeman hit his second goal -- APF´s sixth -- in the 73rd minute before Shrestha killed off the match in the 79th. Nirajan Shrestha scored a consolation goal for United in the 70th minute.
"Now the team setting is going smoothly and the win has also boosted the confidence level of the players," APF assistant coach Janak Singh Tharu said after the match.