KATHMANDU, Dec 19: The 100th league match turned out to be disastrous for NMB Bank Machhindra Club on Wednesday as McDowell´s Ranipokhari Corner Team (RCT) ended the league leaders´s unbeaten run with a thumping 4-0 win and replaced it at the top of the Martyrs Memorial Red Bull A Division Football League at the Dasharath Stadium in Kathmandu.
With the win, RCT also extended its unbeaten run to seven matches in the league and confirmed the top spot for at least 24 hours with 17 points.
Overnight leader Machhindra, playing its 100th match after arrival in top-tier football in 2062 BS, dropped to second position with 16 points. Third-placed Three Star, having a match advantage over them, with 15 points could climb atop the standings if it beats Madhyapur Youth Association on Thursday. Fourth-placed MMC with 14 points also could level points with RCT if it beats Jawalakhel the same day.
RCT and Machhindra players vie for ball. (Photo: Bikash Karki)
RCT playing without its influential African forward Oladipo Olawale Afeez following a match suspension netted three goals before the interval. Shekhar Limbu, Komal Khawas, Yugal Kishor Rai and Amar Dangol were on target for RCT. Dangol´s goal was his sixth in the league, two behind highest scorer Santosh Sahukhala of Three Star.
RCT opened the scoring as early as in the 10th minute through forward Shekhar Limbu after a corner taken from the left side directly entered the net. RCT created as many as three chances in the first half and converted all of them.
"Match becomes easier after getting early goal," RCT coach Madhu Karki said. "The boys had aimed for the top position and they made it. Besides, luck also favored us," said the delighted coach.
Komal Khawas doubled the advantage for RCT in the 42nd minute when he guided a short pass from Bhim Darlami toward the net from close range. Yugal Kishor Rai made it 3-0 during the stoppage time of first half after he flicked Bhim Darlami´s low ball strike to dodge Machhindra custodian Dinesh Thapa Magar in the area. Amar Dangol sealed the comprehensive victory with a header in an acute cross from Shekhar Limbu.
(Photo: Bikash Karki)
Machhindra seemed unlucky as three of its attempts hit the woodwork. In the early fifth minute, Bishal Rai A´s feeble shot from the six-yard box hit the woodwork. In the 34th minute, skipper Deepak Rai´s header in Bishal Rai B´s freekick rebounded off the bar.
In the 45th minute Amar Subba´s header in Rai B´s corner rebounded off the inner edge of the bar before custodian Dilip Chhetry could get his hands on the ball. Komal Khawas made a goal-line clearance to deny Prabesh Katuwal´s header from the six-yard box.
In the 73rd minute, RCT´s Krishna Kumar again cleared Dennis Ouko´s goal-bound header while goalie Chhetry was already beaten. In the 83rd minute Karna Limbu´s header was brilliantly denied by custodian Chhetry.
"We came under pressure after conceding an early goal," Machhindra coach Raju Shakya commented during the post match conference, adding, "My strategy against RCT failed today. I was still hopeful of a comeback until we conceded the second goal, but after the third goal the team was demoralized." Shakya also praised the stubborn defense of RCT.
Sherpa´s woes continue
Yeti Airlines Himalayan Sherpa´s woes continued in the league as it was handed a fifth consecutive 1-0 defeat by the recently promoted CMG Club Sankata. With the defeat Sankata remained unchanged in the 14th position in the relegation zone with four points. With its third victory, Sankata climbed a spot to fifth position with 12 points.
Against the run of play Ritesh Khadka scored the all-important goal for the winning side six minutes into the second half. Khadka made a free header from the area in an acute cross from Badal Ghising to earn full three points.
Earlier, Sherpa squandered a golden chance of scoring in the very first minute of the match after a spotkick taken by its skipper Pukar Gahatraj was denied by Sankata´s African glovesman Ndoe Mbarga Pierre.
Ganesh Khadka wasted yet another chance as he fired above the bar from the six-yard box in Pierre´s spotkick before the fallen goalie had recovered. Khadka also squandered another chance four minutes later. Sherpa was awarded a penalty after Sanjeev Karki brought down Hope Rally.
Sherpa´s Nigerian player Rally hit the woodwork in the 39th and 45th minutes. In the 81st the Nigerian fired inches wide from the area.
Other than scoring Sankata could only make one attempt on goal. But Rupesh Chhetri´s powerful shot from the area was caught by goalie Binay Shrestha.
Sherpa´s coach Meghraj KC lamented the missed penalty. "Had the penalty been converted we would still have a chance to secure a place in the top eight." Commenting on his team´s performance in the league KC said, "We are putting in a sound performance in every match." He, however, claimed that his side is not under relegation threat.
Meanwhile, Sherpa winger Ganesh Khadka and Linadini Mbambo wrestled after the final whistle. Tension ran high after the African head-butted Khadka while the players of the two teams were shaking hands. Later, the referees, officials of Sherpa and police personnel deployed at the stadium took the situation under control.
CMG Club Sankata´s Ritesh Khadka who netted the decisive goal in its 1-0 win over Yeti Airlines Himalayan Sherpa Club shared his happiness in unique way after the goal.
Promptly after scoring, Khadka ran towards the floodlight pole, hugged and kissed a woman who was sitting below the floodlight. Later it was learnt that the woman was Khadka´s wife. Khadka was flashed yellow card by match referee Sachin Amatya for the offence. It was the second goal of Khadka in the league.