March 3, 2019 09:44 AM NPT
By: DHAN BASNET
Members of Three Star Club pose with the trophy as they celebrate after defeating Tribhuvan Army Club in the final of the Aaha Rara Gold Cup football tournament at the Pokhara Stadium in Pokhara on Saturday. Photo: Umesh Pun/Republica
POKHARA, March 3: Three Star Club has defeated departmental team Tribhuvan Army Club 5-4 in sudden-death to win the 17th Aaha Rara Gold Cup football tournament in Pokhara on Saturday.
At the Pokhara Stadium, the regulation time and extra time ended 2-2, while even the tie breaker could not settle a winner and it ended in a 4-4 draw. Three Star won the shootout after keeper Alan Neupane saved Bikash Khawas’ kick. Mikchhen Lama scored the last kick to win Three Star’s fifth Aaha Rara title.
Three Star had earlier won the title in the fifth, the ninth, the eleventh and the thirteenth editions of the tournament, while it has erased its bitter memory of finishing as the runner-up of the last edition when the other departmental team Nepal Police Club won the title.
In the penalty shootout, Army keeper Bikesh Kuthu’s shot was saved by Alan Neupane, while Three Star’s Sushil Rai’s penalty hit the bar and the tie breaker ended in a 4-4 draw. The scorers for Army were captain Bharat Khawas, George Prince Karki, Santosh Tamang and Bibek Basnet, while Ranjit Dhimal, Rupesh KC, captain Bikram Lama and Ananta Tamang scored for Three Star.
The final match at the packed Pokhara Stadium was not only entertaining and full of competition, but also a show of rhythmic football from both the sides. Army, who had taken the lead in the extra time and also the regulation time, lost the lead twice.
Army took the lead in the fifth minute of the match as Dipak Gurung crossed the ball which was headed by Tek Bahadur Budathoki. The ball entered the net hitting the underside of the bar.
But at the end of the first half, Gurung’s hand ball inside the box led to an equalizer for Three Star. Dhimal scored the spot kick composedly to equalize the game.
The game went into extra time with 30 minutes of added time. Army took the lead again at the end of the first half of extra time as Santosh Tamang’s free kick went inside the box touching the head of Three Star captain Bikram Lama in the 105th minute.
But then, Three Star equalized in the 112th minute with a free-kick goal. Dhimal hit the free-kick and Ajayi Martins which also hit the underside of the bar to go in. Army was left frustrated as it could not defend its lead two times in the game.
Three Star was a man down after Sunil Bal was shown the red card, but the loss did not let its head down.
Army kept Three Star under pressure throughout the game. Nawayug Shrestha hit a shot, but it was blocked by Three Star center back Ananta Tamang in the third minute. Army got a free-kick in the 23rd minute which was hit by Santosh Tamang, but was cleared.
Three Star keeper Neupane was named the man of the match and was rewarded with Rs 10,000.
Three Star’s Anil Gurung got the award for the highest goalscorer of the tournament and received Rs 25,000. He had scored a hat-trick against India’s Sikkim United. Likewise, keeper Neupane was named the best player of the tournament and was given an Aprilla scooter.
Similarly, Three Star’s Neupane and Megh Raj KC were named the best keeper and the best coach of the tournament, while Army’s Bimal Pandey, Santosh Tamang and Nawayug Shrestha were adjudged the best defender, the best midfielder and the best forward. They all got Rs 15,000 each.
With the title win, Three Star took home a cash prize of Rs 801,000, while the runner-up Army was handed over Rs 401,000.