KATHMANDU, April 25: Mega Three Star Club -- two time champion, established name in Nepali football, studded with half a dozen current and former national players and four current players of the national squad. Yeti Airlines Himalayan Sherpa Club -- new team, enjoying second year in top tier football, mostly young players none of whom are current or former national players.
But the difference between the two clubs did not seem to play out in the first semifinal match of the British Gorkha Cup Football Tournament played on Wednesday evening under floodlights.
Three Star toiled hard to beat the young guns of Sherpa 1-0 in the extra time following a goalless draw during regular 90 minutes.
Birthday boy Bikram Lama, who turned 22 on Wednesday, gave a wonderful birthday treat to Three Star scoring the decider in the extra time. Lama achieved the target in the 17th minute of added 30 minutes to put Three Star on the course of defending its title. Lama made a diving header inside the six yard box in a long cross from Rabi Thapa Magar to seal the victory.
"I am happy that we made into final with a goal from mine on my birthday. But our mission is not yet complete and will be achieved only after we win the title," Lama said. Three Star will now take on the winner of second semifinal match to be played between Nepal Police Club and Manang Marshyangdi Club (MMC) on Thursday. The final will be played on Saturday.
"The match was like final to me, not semifinal," Three Star coach Meghraj KC said during the post match conference. "It was a 50\\50 game and both teams played well. We utilized scoring opportunities while Sherpa failed to utilize them."
"I am proud of my players and it was a good game," KC´s counterpart Nawal Gurung said adding, "It was quite an even game and the difference between two teams was only a goal."
As said by Gurung, the match was fairly balanced with three post attacks from each sides before the interval. Custodian Binaya Shrestha of Himalayan Sherpa was one of the heros of match who made nearly half a dozen brave saves. In the first half, Shrestha brilliantly denied Nepali international striker Santosh Sahukhala twice who wasted two other scoring chances as well. During the half an hour mark, Sahukhala fired inches above the bar from a close range with only goalie Shrestha as obstacle on his way.
In the 51st minute, glovesman Shrestha cleverly made a long stretch dive to block Bijay Dhimal´s low ball shot from the edge. Three Star´s second attempt in goalie´s rebounder went inches wide. Skipper Bishan Gauchan and scorer Lama were also denied by goalie in the second half.
Sherpa looked a bit under pressure in the second half and failed to make any post attempts. But in the extra time it made three charge at post but all of them were prevented by Nepali international goalie Kiran Chemjong. In the fourth and 12th minutes, Ganesh Khadka and Jangbu Sherpa´s post attempts were off the target. Jangbu´s another attempt in the 36th minute was denied by Chemjong.