ILAM, April 4: Armed Police Force (APF) has advanced to the semifinals of the ongoing Mai Valley Gold Cup Football Tournament after registering a 1-0 victory over CMG Club Sankata in the last eight clash on Tuesday. Winger Navin Lama’s first-half goal was sufficient for APF to become the latest team to book a place in the semifinals of the tournament. Two other departmental teams including Tribhuvan Army Club and Nepal Police Club alongside Rumpum Jhapa XI have already cemented their places in the last four of the tournament.
APF will now face Jhapa XI in the second semifinal clash of the tournament on Thursday while the first semifinal will see the battle between Army and Police on Wednesday.
In the last quarterfinal match of the tournament played at Ilam’s Tundikhel, the decisive goal came in the 17th minute when APF’s winger Navin Lama scored the winner capitalizing on a costly defensive error made by Sankata. Navin cleverly snatched the ball when Sankata’s defender Amit Tamang attempted a back pass to his goalkeeper Bishal Shrestha. He then controlled the ball and charged it from the edge of the penalty box. Scorer Navin was declared the man-of-the-match and was rewarded with Rs 7000.
High-flying Sankata, which has already bagged three titles this season including Bikash Running Shield, Simara Gold Cup and Tilottama Gold Cup, had got a direct entry to the quarterfinal of this tournament. Despite fielding national players including Bishal Shrestha, Ananta Tamang, Bikram Lama and Bimal Gharti Magar, Sankata’s aim of adding fourth title of the season was dented.
Meanwhile, this is the only second semifinal of the season for APF, which has been struggling lately. Earlier, the departmental side had reached the last four of Rajarshi Janak Cup in Sarlahi before facing defeat to Army.
After pulling the victory over Sankata, APF’s head coach Kumar Thapa praised the performance of his players. “Today my players really worked hard and pulled the victory over national players-studded opponent. We had started the match as underdogs but utilizing one big chance helped us seal the important victory,” said head coach Thapa.
He also said that opting defensive strategy in the second half was another reason behind the win. “We had scored the goal in the first half so we decided to play defensive game in the second half in order to protect our lead and we succeeded in our plan,” added Thapa.
Meanwhile, Sankata’s team manager Rajesh Tuladhar said that the costly defensive error was the reason behind the outcome of the match. “We conceded a silly goal, which eventually cost us the match,” said Tuladhar, who was in the roel of the coach as well in the match in the absence of regular head coach Salyan Khadgi, who returned to Kathmandu after feeling unwell.
“Apart from the defensive error, we were the better side dominating the match. But due to poor conversion, we couldn’t score any goal,” concluded Khadgi.
The winner of the tournament that is being organized jointly by Ilam District Football Association and Mai Valley Football Club, will bag a purse of Rs 400,000. Similarly the runner-up will be rewarded with Rs 250,000.