Three Star Club captain Bikram Lama clears the ball during the Aaha Rara Gold Cup quarterfinal football match against Gangtok Football Club at the Pokhara Stadium's football ground in Pokhara on Monday. Photo Courtesy: Republica
POKHARA, March 10: The defending champion Three Star Club has advanced into the semifinals of the ongoing Aaha Rara Gold Cup defeating India’s Gangtok Football Club 3-0 in Pokhara on Monday.
In the third quarterfinal match played at the Pokhara Stadium, a brace from Sushan Shrestha helped the A-Division outfit reach the last four with a big scoreline.
Three Star, which will now take on the Nepal Police Club in the last four match on Wednesday, took the lead through Sanjog Rai in the second half.
The game was not as open as the scoreline suggests as Three Star took the lead in the game 11 minutes from time as Rai broke the deadlock for the team. Nishan Khadka gave a sumptuous pass from the midway part of the pitch to Rai and he beat Gangtok keeper to score for the team.
Then, Three Star scored two goals in the final two minutes of the match through Shrestha to clinch the vital win. Shrestha scored his first goal in the second of the three added minutes as he snatched the ball away from Gangtok’s Afzal Ansari when he was about to clear the ball.
Shrestha then hit a shot from the penalty area in the last minute of the match, giving the keeper no chance at all to save the shot.
The winning team missed a lot of chances to score the goals in the match. Shrestha passed the ball to unmarked Sushil Rai in the 54th minute, but he could not control the ball well for the shot.
Ananta Tamang crossed the ball to Sanjog in the 70th minute, but the forward’s overhead kick went wide, while substitute Dipesh Ghale’s shot from outside the box went just over the crossbar in the 88th minute.
Despite giving a tough challenge to Three Star in the first half, Gangtok could not carry the momentum in the second period and crumble under pressure in the dying minutes.
Gangtok got a chance to open the scoring in the 43rd minute as Don Tshering Lepcha hit a brilliant free-kick, but the ball grazed over the crossbar.
Likewise, Lepcha hit another free-kick, but the header from Lendup Bhutiya went wide off target in the 65th minute.
Bhutiya had a chance to equalize in the 84th minute, but his long-range shot was punched away to safety by Three Star keeper Purna Chemjong.
Three Star head coach Megh Raj KC said that, the team scored late goals as it could not understand the tactics of the opponent. KC further appreciated his team’s dominance despite Gangtok presenting a strong challenge.
Gangtok head coach Mayal Dok Lepcha blamed the referee for awarding the first goal to Three Star despite Sanjog being in an offside position while receiving the ball. He added that it was his first time in Nepal and he had no other complaints for the loss.
Shrestha was named the man of the match for his two goals in the injury time.
The departmental team Tribhuvan Army Club will take on Sankata Club in the final quarterfinal match on Tuesday.