KATHMANDU, Nov 20: The outcome of the inaugural matches of the Martyrs Memorial A Division Football League were unexpected as the big names in Nepali football -- Nepal Police Club and Laxmi Hyundai Manang Marshyangdi Club -- were forced by newcomers to settle for a draw with both matches ending in an identical 1-1 draw.
Defending champion and title winner of the last four leagues Police came from behind to make a draw against newcomer Iceberg Madhyapur Youth Association in the curtain raiser. Similarly, the six-time league champion and the runner up of the last edition MMC was forced to share points with CMG Club Sankata.
Madhyapur took a surprise lead in the very first minute to stun the departmental giant, one of the main contenders of league. Skipper Jeevan Sinkeman put the Bhaktapur-based team ahead just in 55 seconds. Sinkeman headed from the six-yard box in a cross from Bed Shrestha leaving the Police custodian Ritesh Thapa clueless.
But Police leveled the match three minutes into the second half through a header from winger Bhola Silwal who was left unmarked. Silwal headed in a freekick from veteran Parbat Pandey.
Earlier, Police had missed equalizing chance in the seventh minute as Suraj BK failed to connect Parbat Pandey´s corner just ahead of the box.
Madhyapur´s Nirajan Rayamajhi also squandered a scoring chance in the 36th minute as he fired inches wide from the edge with only goalie Thapa as obstacle on his way.
Madhypaur coach Upendra Man Singh expressed satisfaction with his team´s score. "It is an achievement for Madhyapur to earn point from team like Police. Earning points in the first match is vital as this boosts the confidence of players for upcoming matches," said Singh, "Had we been defeated, the players would have lost confidence."
Singh said his side lacked match experience and were not confident while playing with the Police. "We have been training since Dashain and the team is in good shape in terms of fitness."
Singh´s counterpart Birat Krishna Shrestha of Police said that his side conceded an unexpected goal. "We failed to dominate despite our experience," Shrestha who was worried over the recovery of his players Jumanu Rai and Bhola Silwal, Suman Subedi and Roshan Lamichhance said. Subedi and Lamichhane were not included in the team.
In the day´s late match, the most balanced team MMC took seventh minute lead through Nirajan Malla but failed to hold it. Malla easily opened scoring in a pass from skipper Anil Gurung.
But Sankata squared in the 54th minute through Manish Ghale left unmarked inside the area. Ghale made a superb header to send the ball past diving African goalie Abobide Emmanuel.
MMC studded with four African players dominated the match, controlled ball possession and made as many as half a dozen attempts on post. But Sankata´s Cameroonian custodian Ndoe Mbarga Pierrer remained major obstacles on MMC´s way with some heroic saves.
In an hour mark, custodian Pierrer made a long stretch dive to prevent Sabindra Shrestha´s low ball strike. Eight minutes later, Pierrer denied Shiva Shrestha´s powerful 25-yard strike with a quick dive. Scorer Malla was prevented twice during the later stage.
Other than scoring, Sankata studded with three African players made only one dangerous attack on post but failed to achieve the target as Barsat Gurung´s left flank shot hit the woodwork.
"In terms of performance and ball possession we had won the match as well as achieved early goal. Though the beginning was not satisfactory we at least achieved a point," said MMC coach Krishna Thapa who was full of praise for Sankata goalie Pierrer. "It was the goalkeeper who won point for Sankata."
He lamented the poor finishing of his side and said that the draw was the result of disobedience of coach´s instruction. "The goalkeeper was not in the right position and defender had left scorer unmarked so we conceded the goal. They took the opponents easily after scoring."
Sankata coach Maheshwar Mulmi said that his side achieved the target of playing draw. "Other than two Nepali players of the squad all of them are juniors and were the players of B division team. They had feared to play with MMC, but came up with great effort."
According to Mulmi the club has set the target of either finishing on top eight positions or remaining in A division.
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