March 13, 2020 10:48 AM NPT
By: DHAN BASNET
Tribhuvan Army Club’s Nawayug Shrestha (left) and Manang Marshyangdi Club’s Luis Vidal Chissano vie for the ball during the semifinal match of the Aaha Rara Gold Cup football tournament at the Pokhara Stadium in Pokhara on Thursday.
POKHARA, March 13: Manang Marshyangdi Club has advanced into the final of the ongoing 18th Aaha Rara Gold Cup with a 3-2 win over the departmental team Tribhuvan Army Club in Pokhara on Thursday.
With the win, Manang has reached the Aaha Rara final for the 10th time in its history and will be battling out with the other departmental team Nepal Police Club to win its sixth Aaha Rara title on Saturday. Back from its Dharan Gold Cup win, it is now confident it can lift its second title of the season after a poor title defence in the Martyr’s Memorial A-Division League.
However, Army has again been short of winning the title in Pokhara as the A-Division runner-up has not yet won the Aaha Rara Gold Cup in its history. The only title the departmental team won this season is Lamjung’s Rhino Cup.
Likewise, Army had lost a chance to win the Aaha Rara Gold Cup after it was beaten by Manang in the final four years ago.
In the second semifinal match played at the Pokhara Stadium, Manang kept Army under pressure with its attacking display and got the better of the team. Manang took the lead in the early minutes, which frustrated Army and the team could not get the hold of the game.
Army’s defence was very poor in the match as the team kept on going for attacks after attacks, and the defence could not handle the counter-attacking threats from Manang.
Manang took the lead in the third minute through Florent as Sushil Lama took the corner which Army defenders could not clear comfortably. The ball fell to Anjan Bista, who crossed the ball to Florent, who then scored brilliantly for the first goal of the match.
Manang then doubled the score in the 28th minute as Bimal Rana converted a pass from Bista superbly into the bottom corner.
Army, who got behind by two goals just within the half-hour mark, kept on trying to get a goal back with pressing attacking football. Army scored a goal back through captain Bharat Khawas as he headed in a cross from George Prince Karki in the 40th minute.
Army has been very unlucky in the Aaha Rara Gold Cup so far as it has been limited to runner-ups often, while Manang has won the title five times.
In the final of the 14th edition organized by the Sahara Club at the Pokhara Stadium, Manang had defeated Army 1-0 to win the title.
“The defensive performance was very poor today and we conceded goals with the lack of balance in the defence,” Army head coach Nabin Neupane said. “The first goal pressurized us.”
He explained that pushing Santosh Tamang down in the defensive midfield cost the team with lack of manpower. “We could not do well in attack because of their tight marking. We tried to come back, but kept on missing chances after chances.”
Manang doubled the score again in the 82nd minute as Bista, who had assisted twice in the game, scored a goal converting in a pass from Rana. Bista took the ball from Rana, and beat the Army keeper to score for the team.
Army pulled a goal back again just a minute later as Tanka Basnet passed the ball to unmarked Dup Lama, who hit a stunning shot from the d-box to make the score 3-2.
The team kept trying to score a goal after that, but was unsuccessful as Manang defended in numbers and thwarted Army moves in the game with good defensive display.
“I am happy we won such a tight match against a highly respectful Army team. The match was very tough,” Manang head coach Fuja Tope said.