KATHMANDU, Feb 3: Tribhuvan Army Club scored two goals in the last five minutes as the departmental team reclaimed its supremacy at the top of the table with a crucial 4-2 win over rival Nepal Police Club in the ongoing Martyr’s Memorial A-Division League in Kathmandu on Sunday.
Army has been good both in attack and defense all season as it is the highest goal scorer and the joint-least goal conceder in the league so far with 16 goals scored and conceded just five goals.
Having won seven matches and avoiding defeats in the other two, it has been thoroughly consistent in its performances and has shaped itself as a strong contender.
In the game played at the Dasharath Stadium in Tripureshwar, a four-minute brace from Nawayug Shrestha saw Army comeback from a 2-1 deficit to lead 3-2 after the 85th minute and Sudul Rai, who had only been on the field for about 18 minutes sealed the win for the departmental team in the game totally dominated by the winning team.
Police got the early opportunities to score through set-pieces, but could not convert them, but drew the first blood in the first 20 minutes.
It got a free-kick in the fifth minute and was taken by Nir Kumar Rai, but his powerful shot on target was brilliantly saved by Army keeper Bikesh Kuthu. The team got another chance three minutes later as Saujan Rai’s shot from just outside the box went over the crossbar.
Man-of-the-match Shrestha got the first real chance of the game for Army, but his shot from the near post went just wide in the 14th minute.
Police got another free-kick chance and this time it got the final product right. Rai hit a free-kick and the ball was superbly headed into the top corner by Buddha Bal Tamang in the 20th minute.
Army switched to attacking gear faster as it got a chance through Bharat Khawas, but his shot from outside the box was easily saved by Police keeper Roshan Khadka in the 24th minute.
It got another chance three minutes later as a header from Bikash Tamang from the center of the box grazed over the crossbar.
Army got a telling chance in the 34th minute as it got a free-kick and the ball was headed strongly by fullback Suman Aryal to draw the game level.
George Prince Karki, who was not much involved in the game up to the point, hit a shot from outside the box in the 39th minute, but the ball flew over the crossbar.
Army got chances after chances, but could not turn around the game in the first half.
Police had some chances in its name in the second half, despite being totally dominated by Army. Rai hit a powerful shot from outside the box, but the ball went over the crossbar in the 56th minute.
That gave Police the chance to warm up for its goal just two minutes later as Man Bahadur Parihar converted the corner from Rai to score a brilliant header to restore Police’s lead.
Shrestha scored his first goal of the game to equalize the game again in the 77th minute as he produced a wonderful header to level the game 2-2. Shrestha completely turned the game to its head with a fierce left footed shot from the edge of the box to land the ball into the bottom right corner.
Sudil Rai, who came in as a substitute in the 71st minute, sealed the win for Army with a sublime finish from inside the box in the 89th minute.
With the win, Army is top with 23 points from 10 matches including seven wins, two draws and a loss. It is a point ahead of Machhindra Club, and four ahead of holder Manang Marshyangdi Club, which still has a game in hand.
Likewise, Police sits seventh with 14 points including four wins, two draws and four losses, and is a point behind New Road Team, who still has a game to play.
In the other match played on the same day, a first half strike from Ajayi Martins Kayode meant that all three bottom placed teams lost in the round as Sankata Club saw off Himalayan Sherpa Club 1-0.
With Saraswati Youth Club’s 4-0 loss to Three Star Club and Armed Police Force (APF) Club’s 2-1 defeat to Machhindra Club only left Himalayan Sherpa without a win among the bottom three.
After that, the ranking remains the same at the bottom. Saraswati is bottom on four points, while APF and Himalayan Sherpa are second and third from bottom on five and seven points respectively. One of these three teams is expected to go down.
In the game, Martins converted in a header after Kshitiz Rai provided him with a superb ball in the 21st minute which was all but enough to seal a win.
With the win, Sankata climbed over Police and NRT on fifth with 15 points from four wins, three draws and three losses. It is equal on goal difference with NRT, but the team has a game on hand.
On Monday, Manang plays against Chyasal Youth Club, bidding to stay on course for the title charge as a win will see it get just one point behind Army and equal with Machhindra. Jawalakhel Youth Club faces Brigade Boys Club earlier.