BIRTAMOD, Feb 5: Host Jhapa XI and Laxmi Hyundai Manang Marshyangdi Club (MMC) are vying for the title of the Rumpum Jhapa Gold Cup football tournament on Monday at the Domalal stadium in Birtamod, Jhapa.
The encounter between home side Jhapa, which has now emerged as one of the strong forces of domestic football, and traditional powerhouse MMC is expected to be a tough competition.
Jhapa, the runner up of last edition has set its sight on title at the home turf and keep the trophy of highest cash prized event at home. Jhapa's dream of winning the title in last edition was dashed after it went down against Tribhuvan Army Club in the summit clash and the home team is looking forward to brush aside the defeat of last edition.
However, MMC is not an easy opponent to crack and both teams are confident of winning the title. MMC presented itself as a strong title contender after beating defending champion Army in the semifinal. Besides this, MMC is in high morale after claiming the titles of Khaptad Gold Cup in Dhangadhi and Aaha-Rara Gold Cup in Pokhara. Besides this, MMC is also studded with host of experienced national players.
“The biggest advantage for us is the presence of experienced players,” MMC coach Tshering Lopsanga said. “The team is also in good form of late and the players are confident. So we are optimistic of winning the final.”
However, lack of consistent performance by players has been the major setback for the visiting team in Jhapa. MMC regular skipper Anil Gurung is absent in the tournament owing to his personal reasons. But he will be available for the final match, according to coach Lopsang. The team studded with national players like Sujal Shrestha, Biraj Maharjan, Bishal Rai, Bikram Lama, Anil Gurung among others is capable of turning the table at any time.
Interestingly, goalie Dinesh Thapa Magar will take charge of MMC post against his former club who was with the home team a couple of months earlier.
Home team is also equally optimistic of winning its first ever trophy at home turf. On the back of strong team work of recent time and title of Kakarbhitta Gold Cup a month earlier, Jhapa is eager to continue its momentum in the tournament. Skipper Prabesh Katuwal claimed that the home team will end its title drought at the home turf this time. “We have been to the final for the second time in a row. We have a set team besides home advantage and solid teamwork. Thus we are optimistic of win in the final."
Informing that there shall be some changes in the squad, Prabesh said, “MMC is a tough opponent but not unbeatable. We are not dependent on single players because different players are on scoresheets. The most important thing is they are confident.”
The highest scorer of the tournament Karna Limbu and Buddha Chemjong of Jhapa are in good form while goalie Allan Neupane has come up with phenomenal performances.
Both the teams have some similarities as well in the tournament. Both have maintained clean sheets and secured wins by big margins. Jhapa had overcame Sher Club of Kalimpong 5-0 in its first match while overcame Far-west XI and Himalayan Sherpa Club by identical scores of 4-0 in the quarterfinal and semifinal respectively. MMC, which enjoyed bye in the first round, edged past New Road Team 4-0 in the quarterfinal before beating Army 1-0 in the semifinal.
Looking at the past records, MMC holds edged over home team. In their last six encounters, MMC has won four times while Jhapa won twice.