KATHMANDU, July 16: Nepal Police Club´s dream of lifting the Martyrs Memorial Red Bull A Division League Football trophy with an unbeaten record once again was shattered on Saturday after it was defeated 1-0 by arch rival Laxmi Hyundai Manang Marshyangdi Club (MMC) at the Dasharath Stadium.
Police, practically assured of the title, emerged league champion for the third time in a row on the basis of goals superiority.
Both the teams have equal 44 points with 14 wins, two draws and a loss each from 17 matches played during the league. However, Police has a goal difference of 47 while MMC had 35. Police scored 54 goals and conceded seven, while MMC scored 42 and conceded seven.
With the win, Police bagged a purse of two million rupees along with the winner´s trophy while runner-up MMC received Rs 700,000.
The defeat also denied Police and its coach Birat Krishna Shrestha a chance to extend their unbeaten run to 50 matches in the league. The last time Police faced defeat in the league was in the second match of the second leg of 2063 BS league. In the previous edition too, Police had lifted the trophy without losing a single match.
"Winning the title remaining undefeated gives a great pleasure. I am really disappointed to see our 49-match unbeaten run come to an end," said Police coach Shrestha.
National player Anil Gurung scored the lone goal for MMC in the 30th minute. Gurung scored from the goalline changing the direction of Sujal Shrestha´s shot from the box.
In the competitive match, despite dominating ball possession MMC made only a few attempts compared to Police. MMC could make only a couple of impressive attempts on goal. Police custodian Ritesh Thapa made a brilliant quick dive in the injury time of first half to save a powerful shot from Santosh Sahukhala from the edge of the box after a one-to-one pass with Anil Gurung. Ten minutes after the break, Police glovesman Thapa again denied Gurung´s header in Nirajan Khadka´s free-kick.
MMC custodian Bishal Shrestha made a couple of heroic saves to deny Police. Shrestha twice denied Bhola Silwal and Ramesh Katuwal´s powerful strikes from the box in the 64th and 65th minutes, respectively.
In the 71st minute, the league´s highest scorer Jumanu Rai missed the target in an open net after receiving a pass from Bharat Khawas who had stolen the ball from from Deepak Bhusal.
Summing up the whole league, MMC President Tashi Ghale complained that it was the unfair decision of the referee that led his team to finish as runner-up. He also raised suspicion over the fairness of the match played between Police and Three Star on Wednesday. "I have heard the two teams´ players were involved in fixing. Today´s win gives a message that the trophy must be given to MMC."
Three Star finishes fourth
Mega Three Star Club climbed three spots to fourth after a 2-1 win over Friends Club in the day´s early kick-off, pushing Himalayan Sherpa down to fifth. Three Star finished fourth with 34 points, one more than Sherpa. Friends remained unchanged in the ninth spot with 24 points.
African recruit for Three Star George Ssempala and Raj Kumar Ghising scored one each in the 17th and 28th minutes respectively while substitute Bishan Gurung pulled one back for Friends on 74 minutes.
Ssempala scored from the box in a short pass set by Bishnu Gurung, and Ghising doubled the scoring 11 minutes later. Gurung, a 64th minute replacement for Thomas Scott, pulled one back for Friends in goalie Kiran Chemjong´s rebound off Prakash Budhathoki´s shot.
Three Star coach Meghraj KC said that Three Star´s run in the league was satisfactory. "The team´s target was to save Three Star´s image and play good football, and we achieved that," KC said.
KC´s counterpart Paras Chaudhary of Friends said that to achieve ninth position with average players was an achievement for the team.