KATHMANDU, April 26: A penalty miss from Anil Gurung proved costly for Laxmi Hyundai Manang Marshayangdi Club (MMC) as National League champion Nepal Police Club advanced into the final of British Gorkha Cup for the first time with a 1-0 victory over MMC at the Dasharath stadium on Thursday evening.
Yogesh Shrestha scored the only goal of the match in the 27th minute to send two-time runner-up MMC crashing out of the tournament. Shrestha scored a superb goal from the area in Suraj BK’s pass after a long dash.
This is the first time Police has reached the final of the knockout tournament with the highest cash prize. In the previous edition, Police had crashed out from the semifinals after going down 4-3 against MMC in sudden death following a goalless draw. In the first edition, Three Star had ended Police’s run in the quarterfinals with a 2-1 victory.
“We were very much eager to enter the final as we had failed to do so in the previous two editions,” Police coach Birat Krishna Shresha said during the post-match conference. “However, it has come at a cost as our striker Jumanu Rai and Suraj BK picked injuries.”
Earlier, MMC missed a chance to take the lead in the 22nd minute after Nepali international Anil Gurung’s penalty was denied by Police custodian Ritesh Thapa. Refree Sachin Amatya had awarded MMC the penalty after Deependra Paudel handled ball in the area while trying to block Adewale Jacoba’s strike.
Goalie Thapa, who was adjudged the man-of-the-match, made some heroic saves in the first half to prevent MMC from taking the lead. MMC looked dangerous and made four attempts on goal before the interval in the fast-paced match, but all of them were denied by the goalie.
“It was unfortunate to miss the penalty,” MMC coach Devendra Jung Shahi said after the match. “The opponent goalkeeper also made some brilliant saves.”
In the 18th minute custodian Thapa produced two brilliant saves. Thapa denied Ameer Shrestha’s powerful shot from 20 yards, and made a long stretched dive to prevent African recruit Jacob’s strike in Gurung’s back pass off Sujal Shrestha’s corner. In the 39th minute, Thapa prevented Shrestha’s low-ball strike from the area.
Before taking the lead Police had wasted a couple of scoring opportunities. In the 25th minute, Dilip Rai’s shot from the right flank after beating MMC goalie Shrestha was defended by Bikash Singh Chhetri, and a minute later scorer Shrestha fired wide in a one-on-one with the goalie.
In the second half, MMC came under pressure and failed to make any impressive attempts on target. Unlike MMC, Police made three attempts. In the 67th minute, Shrestha’s goal-bound free-kick was punched to safety by the custodian. Five minutes later, Shrestha failed to connect Parbat Pandey’s cross in an open net. In the 84th minute, Bhola Silwal’s shot from close range hit the woodwork.
Police defender Rabin Shrestha will miss the final as he was booked with a second yellow card on Thursday. The final will be played on Saturday.