Players of AFP (blue) and Dharan FC vie for the ball during their match of the 15th Aaha-Rara Gold Cup football tournament in Pokhara, Kaski on Wednesday. Photo Courtesy: Sudarshan Ranjit
POKHARA, Jan 19: An extra-time goal from Deepak Rai turned out to be decisive as Dharan Football Club registered a 1-0 win over Armed Police Force (APF) on Wednesday to book a quarterfinal spot in the 15th Aaha-Rara Gold Cup football tournament being held at Pokhara Stadium.
Deepak netted in the 13th minute of added 20 minutes after the regulation time ended in a 0-0 draw. He slammed the ball into the far post from the danger zone after collecting a pass from Bartaman Rai to score the winner. Dharan will now take on Laxmi Hyundai Manang Marshyangdi Club in the last-eight clash.
Following the win, Dharan made it to the second round of Aaha-Rara Gold Cup for the second time. APF had also crashed out from the very first round of the tournament in last edition while the departmental team had finished runner-up in the 12th edition after losing the final against Police.
The match on Wednesday was dragged to extra time after both the sides failed to utilize some scoring chances. In the early eighth minute, Dharan glovesman Purna Chemjong parried Ranjan Bista's strike set by Shyam Nepali. Eight minutes later, the goalie, who was later declared the man-of-the-match, again denied Yubaraj Khadka. APF was unfortunate two minutes from time after Hari Karki's header in Nabin Lama's freekick crashed into the woodwork.
APF coach Kumar Thapa said that his side turned nervous in the second half after failing to utilize scoring opportunities before the break. "The boys failed to utilize scoring opportunities in the first half. They were frustrated in the second half and could not match their own level," said Thapa, who also pointed out injury of striker Ranjan Bista as the setback for the team. "Ranjan was already injured thus he failed to play to his potential. The result could have been different had we utilized scoring opportunities."
Similarly, Dharan also failed to capitalize on a couple of scoring opportunities. Gilson Kandangdwa squandered a scoring chance in the 81st minute. Moments later, APF custodian Amrit Chaudhary denied a scorcher of Gilson.
Dharan coach Subash KC said, "It was really a tough win and the team was not set properly. It was only after arrival at Pokhara that all members of the squad joined training camp. It took a bit more time for setting the team after delay on finalizing the players coming to Pokhara. Unlike ours, APF is a set team and it is always tough to vie with it. APF is capable of playing in the same tune from the start to the finish."