Photo Courtesy: ANFA Three Star Club’s Sanjog Rai (right) dribbles the ball against Saraswati Youth Club during the Martyr’s Memorial A-Division League football match at the Dasharath Stadium in Tripureshwar, Kathmandu on Saturday.
KATHMANDU, Feb 2: Machhindra Club came from a goal down to defeat the struggling Armed Police Force (APF) Club 2-1 as the team registered its seventh win of the season to go on top of the table in the ongoing Martyr’s Memorial A-Division League in Kathmandu on Saturday.
Earlier, Sanjog Rai scored the first hat-trick of the season as Three Star Club came back to winning ways and climbed back to the fourth place with a 4-0 victory over relegation battler Saraswati Youth Club.
In the late kick-off played at the Dasharath Stadium in Tripureshwar, APF stunned Machhindra scoring a goal two minutes from first half, but Machhindra settled itself in the second half and scored two goals, with the winner coming 11 minutes from time.
Machhindra has gone above both Tribhuvan Army Club and Manang Marshyangdi Club and leads Three Star by five points, but Army and Manang are yet to play a match.
Machhindra started the game very well with possession football utilizing its pace in the flanks, but did not create clear cut chances to score.
The first real chance of the game fell to APF in the 21st minute as a shot from Pradip Lama from outside the box was beautifully saved by Machhindra keeper Bishal Shrestha. APF got a corner and a header from Lama again was once again saved by Shrestha.
Machhindra was pegged back for missing all those chances as Dangal scored a goal for APF, and gave his team a glimmer of hope that it could turn its fate around with a win against Machhindra.
Nabin Lama crossed the ball inside the box as Dangal was waiting for the ball and he rose high, hit the header which bounced against the crossbar and went in for the first goal of the game.
Neither teams could score any other goal in the remaining of the regulation time and two first half injury time minutes.
Midfielder Bishal Rai (B) scored for Machhindra just three minutes into the second half as he headed a corner coming from Ranjit Dhimal.
Machhindra players appealed for a penalty inside the box, but the referee just pointed his finger outside the danger box in the 49th minute. Dhimal’s free-kick grazed over the crossbar.
It was all Machhindra in the second half with the creation of more chances and attacking with blocks and high pressure football.
Buddha Raj Limbu hit a shot in the 55th minute, but his shot from outside the box was tipped away for a corner.
APF keeper Raju Yogi saved the team from more humiliation with back to back double saves. He saved Dhimal’s shot first, then rushed to save a shot from Somide Oluwawunmi in the 68th minute.
Center back Devendra Tamang nearly scored for the team, but his free-kick went to the top left corner and was saved by Yogi again in the 74th minute.
APF conceded a penalty after a foul inside the box. Dhimal’s initial shot was saved by keeper Yogi, but he could not stop the rebound into the bottom right corner as Dhimal sent the keeper the wrong way in the 79th minute.
Dhimal had another chance to score, but his shot from just outside the box went over the crossbar again two minutes later.
With the win, Machhindra climbed to the top spot with 22 points from 10 matches, which includes seven wins, two draws and a loss. Likewise, APF is second from bottom with five points from 10 matches including a win, two draws and seven losses.
In the other match of the day, Rai scored a second half hat-trick becoming the first player this season to do so.
Three Star dominated the bottom placed Saraswati completely as it built its possession and hit the team on direct counter attack with good passage of plays. The second half was even better as the Lalitpur-based side scored all its goals in the second period.
Lal Rammavra and Rai scored the goals in the game and they have bagged seven goals together in the league, which is half of the team’s goals.
Rammavra got a chance in the near post as his shot went over the keeper and into the post for the first goal of the game in the 48th minute.
Rai scored his first goal through a corner as his first touch was sublime and went straight over the keeper in the 57th minute, while he doubled his tally with a left footed shot from outside the box three minutes later, which went into the top left corner of the post.
He completed his hat-trick in the 71st minute, which sealed a commanding win for the team.
With the win, Three Star climbs over both New Road Team and Nepal Police Club, but both of the other teams could go ahead of Three Star as they have a game in hand. Three Star has 17 points with five wins, two draws and three losses, while Saraswati is bottom on four points with a win, a draw and eight losses.
On Sunday, Tribhuvan Army Club takes on Police which could shape a new narrative in the league, while Himalayan Sherpa Club faces Sankata Club earlier the same day.