KATHMANDU, Dec 19: A dismal performance from Manang Marshyangdi Club (MMC) overshadowed its first win in the title defense campaign at the ongoing Qatar Airways Martyr’s Memorial A-Division League, in Kathmandu on Wednesday.
In the last match of the first round played at the Dasharath Stadium, two first-half goals from Bimal Rana ensured a 2-0 win over the departmental team Armed Police Force (APF) Club for the defending champion, who won 12 out of the 13 matches it played last season, despite putting up a few below-par performances.
Head coach Fuja Tope who had to field his starting eleven without Anjan Bista, who is serving a ban for late night drinking a month ago, played the likes of Pujan Uperkoti, Ek Raj Budathoki and Jiwan Gurung, who don’t start much. He also played foreign player Koara Larba Florent K and Dayananda Singh Elangbam apart from giving former national team player Jagajeet Shrestha a debut this season.
Manang did not have much clear-cut chances to choose from, but the two goals from Rana were brilliant.
Rana scored his first goal as he produced a diving header from a Shrestha cross to give Manang a 1-0 lead in the 28th minute.
Manang pressurized APF from the flanks with Shrestha providing support to the fullbacks Kamal Shrestha and Budathoki.
The winning side got other chances in the first-half as well, as Rana tried a flick shot in the seventh minute, but the ball went wide. Likewise, Singh hit a good shot in the 44th minute, but the ball was saved by the APF goalkeeper Amrit Kumar Chaudhary.
Manang doubled its lead through Rana as the national team member converted a pass from Florent to hit a shot from outside of the box in the 35th minute.
The second-half from Manang was close to terrible, but surprisingly, it came home with a win as the AFP forwards could not convert the chances its dominating midfield provided.
APF dominated the possession throughout the second period, cut short the ways Manang could launch counter attacks with strong defensive performance and also created a lot of chances from the middle of the park.
The departmental team, who finished fifth last season with seven wins, got a chance in the 48th minute as Sudip Sikhrakar produced a cross, but a half volley from Aashish Lama went wide.
Manang’s midfield became almost non-existent in the game with a lot of passes going to the APF players and the team handled the ball possession with swift passing to the byline. Manang was not able to create anything, nor was it capable of absorbing the pressure from APF.
The game gradually turned one-sided with APF domination in the second-half, but the departmental team could not score due to some poor finishing and execution from Prabin Kumar Syangtan and substitute Mani Lama. After the match, APF head coach Rajendra Tamang blamed it to a lack of coordination between the forwards.
"We created many chances in the game, but the combination let us down," Tamang said, adding, "There was a lack of experience in our team and the early goal put us in the pressure."
Manang coach Dhaneshwor Prajapati said that the players performed as expected. "We got the result as expected in today’s game. We needed three points and we got just the result for that," he added, "We are happy with the win. There are many things to be improved now. We will do that in the upcoming games."
Earlier, on the day, title contender Three Star Club played a surprising 0-0 draw with Jawalakhel Youth Club to kickstart its campaign on a poor note.
In the game played at the All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) Complex in Satdobato, Three Star threw a lot of chances away and came back with just a point.