KATHMANDU, Jan 3: Army Club held league leader Three Star Club in a goalless draw in the Martyrs Memorial Red Bull A Division League on Thursday. Three Star failed to capitalize on the absence of three key Army players -- forward Bharat Khawas, Nawayug Shrestha and Yuddha Shahi -- and extend its lead over second-placed NMB Machhindra Club.
Khawas, who is currently the second highest scorer in the league with nine goals, was suspended for a match following three bookings while All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) has slapped a three-match ban on Shahi and Shrestha for their "unsporting behavior" during the match against RCT last week.
In a fiercely contested match, both the teams wasted a couple of chances. In the 33rd minute, Ram Kumar Biswas´ header in a free-kick off Bishwa Bairag Samal entered the net but the assistant referee ruled it offside. Army had another chance to seal the match in the 82nd minute but Amrit Basnet fired inches wide of the post in Tanka Basnet´s pass.
Jawalakhel Club vs Friends Club (Photo: Bikash Karki)
Three Star´s Victor Amobi´s 20-yard shot sailed above the bar in the dying minutes of the first half and an unmarked Bijay Gurung´s header in a cross from Victor also sailed above the bar in the 55th minute.
Army coach Yogambar Suwal said his team had aimed for a draw and succeeded in it. "We didn´t have three key players in the team so our aim was to share points today," said Suwal, adding that his side still has a chance of topping the points table.
His counterpart Pradip Humagain said Army played better football than his side. "We failed to implement our strategy. We were here to win the match. This draw could dampen our hopes of clinching the top position," said Humagain.
Leader Three Star has 26 points, three more than second-placed Machhindra. Army lies in the fifth position with 18 points from 11 matches.
Friends Club beats Jawalakhel
In the day´s late kick-off, NIBL Friends Club defeated Samsung Jawalakhel Youth Club 3-0 to climb two spots to ninth in the points table.
Friends, which has played six draws, extended its unbeaten run to eight matches with Thursday´s win. Friends has 15 points from 11 matches while Jawalakhel is in the 10th position with 14 points.
Friends opened the scoring on the hour mark and sealed the match 3-0 with an injury-time goal.
Friends took the lead when Jawalakhel´s Stephane Eric conceded an own goal in an attempt to clear a cross from Zikahe Dodoz. Prakash Budhathoki doubled the advantage with a solo effort by dodging three defenders and shooting it to the far post.
Bishnu KC, who replaced Budhathoki in the 87th minute, scored the third goal for Friends in a goalmouth-melee in a corner off Jagjit Shrestha.
Earlier, Shrestha´s shot in the 56th minute had hit the woodwork while Dodoz missed a couple of chances in either half.
In the 41st minute, Jawalakhel had a chance to take the lead but Jaggu Nath Khadka´s 20-yard free-kick rebounded off the bar. Prabin Karki shot inches wide in the 53rd minute.
"We failed to execute our strategy. We tried to put pressure to some key players of Friends but they handled the pressure easily. On the other hand, our forward could not perform as expected," said Kishor KC, the coach of Jawalakhel.
Friends´ coach Ramesh Maharjan thanked his players for their improved performance despite the absence of key players like Deepak Bhusal and Ritesh Malla. "None of the boys played selfish game and we achieved success through teamwork," said Maharjan.
Bansbari Vs MMC @12:30 NST
Bauddha Vs Madhyapur @14:30 NST