JHAPA, Nov 26: Laxmi Hyundai Manang Marshyangdi Club (MMC) advanced to the semifinals of the ongoing Kakarbhitta Gold Cup Football Tournament on Saturday after defeating Rupandehi XI 7-6 on sudden death.
At the Kakarbhitta School ground, goalie Dinesh Shrestha’s performance was the major factor behind the win for MMC. Shrestha, who blocked many shots from Rupandehi, also saved penalty in sudden death, which helped MMC cruise into the last four of the tournament.
After both MMC and Rupandehi were goalless till the 90th minute, the game was taken to penalty shootout.
MMC’s semifinal fate was decided when the shot of Rupandehi’s Saurav Magar was saved by goalkeeper Dinesh in the sudden death of penalty-shootout.
Man-of-the-match Dinesh also saved many clear-cut chances of Rupandehi. MMC had fielded national team players in the lineup but was frequently put to threat by Rupandehi players. But despite getting many opportunities to find the net, Rupandehi could not score a single goal.
MMC showed improved performance in the second half but could not finish it off. Bimal Rana almost put MMC ahead in the 12th minute when he headed the ball past Dilip Chhetri but his goal was disallowed by the linesman.
Rupandehi also got a golden opportunity to get the first goal of the match when Rajin Dhimal’s cross was put just wide by African player Abba. Abba’s shot was stopped by Dinesh in the 18th minute again and Deepak Rai hit the rebound shot only to be blocked by Dinesh again. Also, national team striker Bimal Gharti Magar’s shot was saved by Rupandehi’s goalie Dilip in the injury time of the first half.
Though Rupandehi managed to keep pressure on MMC in the second half as well, the team failed to break the deadlock when Abba missed one-versus-one golden opportunities twice in the 64th and 73rd minute. He was denied by Dinesh, yet again.
“Today was our unlucky day. We threw away many good opportunities,” Rupandehi’s coach Daya Ram Sapkota said after the game. “I am happy with the way the team performed against the strongest team of the country.”
Biraj Maharjan, who handed over the captain’s armband to Anil Gurung, recently retired national team striker and captain, in the last 10 minutes of the match, said: “It was a hard-fought victory.”
Maharjan added: “It was very difficult to win this game today, but we did it and we are happy with the result.”
MMC will take on host Kakarbhitta or Himalayan Sherpa Club in the semifinals, who have date in another quarterfinal.
In the other quarterfinal, Tribhuvan Army Club (TAC) will face Far-Western XI, who defeated Jhapa XI on Sunday.