A shot from the semifinal match between Manang Marshyangdi Club (white and blue) and Sankata during the 15th Aaha-Rara Gold Cup Football Tournament at the Pokhara Stadium in Pokhara, Kaski, on Thursday. (Photo Courtesy: Sudarshan Ranjit)
POKHARA, Jan 27: A late goal from African recruit Olawale O Afeez guided defending champion Laxmi Hyundai Manang Marshyangdi Club (MMC) to a 1-0 win over CMG Club Sankata in the semifinal of Aaha-Rara Gold Cup Football Tournament on Thursday as it fixed the summit clash against host Sahara Club.
Afeez netted four minutes from time against the A division opponent which played with a-man down nearly for half an hour after winger Sushil KC was sent off in the 63rd minute. Afeez pounced ahead from the goalline in Bikram Lama freekick after Bimala Rana set him with a short header pass.
Rohit Chand of MMC was declared the-man-of-the-match. MMC will now take on Sahara Club in the final on Saturday which had overcome Tribhuvan Army Club 4-3 in tiebreaker on Wednesday.
Sankata coach Salyan Khadgi however expressed his displeasure over sending off of Sushil who was shown second yellow in the 63rd minute by referee Bikash Mahat for using abusive word. “Though it is wrong to use abusive word, the referee’s decision was not fair,” Khadgi said after the match. “Not only I am speaking about double yellow, but the referee flashed too many unnecessary yellow cards in minor offence as well making the players demoralize. However, he even did not dare to warn MMC players in sever mistakes,” he fumed.
Khadgi also blamed referee of giving unnecessary advantage to MMC due to presence of multiple national players in the squad. “There was no fair play at all and the referee gave one-sided decision favoring MMC. I am totally dissatisfied with referee decision,” he said adding that the second yellow card to Sushil became turning point of the match. “The boys played as per match plan in the first half but referee was to blame for making team weak after the break,” he summed up.
It was the third occasion that Sankata crashed out at the hands of MMC in the in as many participations. Earlier, Sankata had faced identical 2-0 defeats in the third and 12th editions of tournament.
Sankata’s most impressive attempt on goal came in the 38th minute when Bishwas Shrestha’s freekick at the far post sailed inches wide.
MMC, the record nine time finalists and four time champion, dominated the match since the onset but the quest of goal was materialized in the late moment. Anil Gurung squandered chance in the 18th minute in Afeez pass while the latter’s 72nd minute header set by Sujal Shrestha was denied brilliantly by goalie Binay Shrestha.