Sensational draw lead Army into super eight

KATHMANDU, June 21: Both the matches of the Martyrs Memorial Red Bull A Division League Football Tournament on Tuesday ended in draws.

In the clash between two departmental teams, Armed Police Force (APF) played out a 1-1 draw against Nepal Army Club on its home ground at Halchowk, while the match between Mahindra Bansbari FC and United Youth Club ended goalless.

APF players had barely finished celebrating their goal when Army hit back the equalizer to level the scoring. Amir Shrestha had put APF ahead in the fifth minute of the 10-minute stoppage time to the delight of a large number of home fans. Shrestha hit a powerful 30-yard strike in the far post to stun diving Army custodian Bikash Malla.

But a minute later, Army player Hari Mahato scored the equalizer from close range when he connected a cross of Tanka Basnet.

The win lifted Army one position into the top eight, replacing Bauddha with equal 19 points to ninth after playing 12 matches. APF remained unchanged in the 12th spot with 12 points.

"The result has diminished our chances of making it through to the top eight," said APF assistant coach Janak Singh Tharu who had targeted a win. "A small mistake cost the team dearly," Tharu added.

Playing in front of a huge home crowd with musical instruments, APF created less number of chances than Army did though both the sides enjoyed fairly equal ball possession. Skipper Ganesh Lawati and scorer Shrestha each squandered a scoring opportunity for the home side.
For the Army team, Hari Mahato failed to score in an open net in the 40th minute when he hit above the bar after beating the goalkeeper. APF custodian Samit Rajbhandari also made some brilliant saves to deny the Army players. Rajbhandari punched Deep Kumar Lama´s brilliant volley to safety in the 63rd minute and also denied Bhoj Raj Ghimire and Santosh Nepali´s shots in the 71st and 77th minutes respectively.

Army coach Babukaji Dhaubhanjar lamented the lack of scoring ability of his players. "Had we won the match it could have been a turning point for the team to achieve the target of playing the super league. We could have climbed to sixth spot," Dhaubhanjar said, adding, "We still have a chance of finishing in the top eight but we have to face tough teams for that."

Meanwhile, in a drab affair bottom-placed United failed to achieve its first victory despite fielding two Kenyans and a Cameroonian player against Bansbari. United crafted a few opportunities, but all in vain. Debutant Cameroonian Ayuk Tabet twice failed to utilize scoring chances while Ajay Kapali´s shot from a tight angle was denied by goalie Lucky Karki.

Bansbari nearly took the lead in the 72nd minute when skipper Dil Bahadur Tamang´s free-kick rebounded hitting inner edge of the bar. Similarly, in the injury time of first half, defender Sabin Nayabha headed the ball to safety when Nabin Lama´s powerful volley was moving toward the net.

Bansbari remains unchanged in the 11th place with 16 points, while United is still at the bottom on the basis of goals superiority despite having equal three points as that of second last placed Koilapani.

"The arrival of foreigner players has boosted the team´s confidence," said United coach Roshan Dangol, adding, "Now we will work toward avoiding relegation, and we still have a chance if we win the upcoming matches."

Bansbari coach Hari Om Shrestha said that it is now a difficult task for the team to make it into the top eight. He also blamed the players´ negligence for the draw.

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