Photo Courtesy: NSJF Players of Manang Marsyangdi Club (R) and Shaheen Asmayee FC of Afghanistan in action during their Sheikh Kamal International Club Cup Group B match at MA Aziz Stadium in Chittagong, Bangladesh on Wednesday.
KATHMANDU, Feb 22: A superb hat-trick from Amiruddin Sharifi for Shaheen Asmayee FC delayed Manang Marsyangdi Club's surge to the semifinals of the Sheikh Kamal International Club Cup as it succumbed to a 3-1 defeat to the Afghan club on Wednesday with a match in hand. With Manang's defeat, the semifinal race for all the teams in Group B has become wide open.
In the match played at MA Aziz Stadium, Chittagong, Shaheen took lead in the 38th minute with Sharifi's opener as he scored a brilliant long-range goal from the edge of the danger zone. Sharifi scored his personal second to make the scoreline 2-0 in the 65th minute utilizing Moha Rueed Samandari's cross from the right flank. Second-half substitute Bimal Basnet scored in the 73rd minute for Manang to revive the hopes of the A Division outfit of Nepal. Bimal who came as a replacement of Biraj Maharjan scored a brilliant header off Sujal Shrestha's corner. But Manag's hope was crushed after Shaheen was given penalty in the 76th minute for Adama Boh Sissoko's foul and Afghani skipper Sharifi made no mistake from the spot to complete his hat-trick.
Earlier, Manang missed a golden opportunity to produce the equalizer in the 40th minute when Anil Gurung's header hit the woodwork. Full-back Kamal Shrestha had set up a long-range pass in the penalty box for Manang's skipper. In the 60th minute, Manang's African striker Afeez Olawale Olapido's powerful shot from the penalty box was denied by Shaheen's goalkeeper Mahbobullah Kakar. Seven minutes later, Manang missed another chance to score as Ogabemiro Olasemi Samson's powerful close-range shot was saved by Shaheen's goalkeeper Kakar. The Afghan league champion also missed a golden opportunity to add goal in the match most notably when Reza Allah Yari couldn't score a free header from Amanullah Sardari's cross from the right wing.
After the defeat, Manang's head coach Chhiring Lopsang said that his skipper Anil's header hitting the woodwork was the turning point of the match. "The outcome of the match would have been in our favor if Anil's header had been converted into goal. That was the turning point of the match," said head coach Lopsang.
"Opponent team's players were physically stronger and our players also couldn't play up to their mark. Today, our defensive performance also was not good either," added Lopsang. However he is hopeful of his team securing a place in the last four of the tournament. Manang which has three points after winning its first match against home side Mohammedan SC Limited will take on another Bangladeshi opponent Chittagong Abhani Limited on Friday.