August 23, 2016 10:03 PM NPT
Sunil Bal of Three Star Club in action during an AFC play-off qualifiers match against Nagaworld FC of Cambodia at MFF Football Center in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia on Tuesday. (Photo Courtesy: Nsjf)
KATHMANDU, Aug 23: A late goal from Nigerian forward Ajayi Martins Kayod rescued a point for national champion Ruslan Three Star Club as it salvaged a 1-1 draw against Nagaworld FC of Cambodia in the AFC Cup playoff qualifiers on Tuesday.
Martins netted in the 87th minute to cancel Nhim Sovannara's 28th minute lead for Nagaworld in the match held at the MFF Football Center in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
Nagaworld had kept Three Star under pressure for the first 35 minutes creating plenty of goal scoring opportunities. Three Star, which failed to hold ball possession in the first half, started the second half brightly. Head coach Megh Raj KC decided to change his front line in the second half bringing off Asim Jung Karki for experienced Buddha Chemjong, who linked up well with Nigerian striker Martins for the rest of the match.
Three Star piled up the pressure on Nagaworld defenders in the second half but it failed to create clear cut scoring chances until Sunil Bal's corner in the 87th minute. Nigerian striker Martins, who has been in good form for the national champion, scored a header off Sunil's corner to spare the blushes of Three Star.
Three Star head coach Megh Raj KC expressed satisfaction over the result but he wasn't happy with the overall performance of the players.
“We got just one day to rest, so the players couldn't perform well due to tiredness,” said KC.
“Nagaworld was strong and a new opponent for us. It took a bit longer for us to understand their game play and tactics. So we couldn't formulate our plan from the beginning. In the second half, my boys played well to get back in the game,” added KC.
In the next match, host Erchim is likely to have an advantage over Nagaworld due to the absence of the latter's first-choice goalkeeper and is a positive development for Three Star as the result will have impact on Three Star's chance of progressing into the next round.
Three Star's Captain Bikram Lama admitted that Nagaworld's quick playing style created difficulties to them in the first half.
“We struggled in the first half but we improved our performance in the second half, which helped us to equalize.”
Bikram also added that the match between Erchim and Nagaworld will be important as the result of that match could determine Three Star's journey to the next round.
Nagaworld head coach Meas Chann seemed content with his team's performance. “This match was a must-win match for us but the players lost the tune in the second half and conceded a last-gasp goal,” said Chann.
“Our last match is against Erchim, which is a good team as well. We will try to play in our style and win the game,” added Chann.
Following the draw, the Lalitpur-based team's entry into the second round hangs in the balance. Three Star had defeated Erchim FC of Mongolia 2-0 in the opening match on Sunday which means the home team's chance of making into the next round has been over. With both matches played in the three team group, Three Star has four points and Nagaworld with a match advantage over Three Star has one point. One among Three Star and Nagaworld will make it to the next stage. However, Nagaworld must beat Erchim by at least three-goal margin to make it to the next round.