KATHMANDU, April 17: Friends Club marked the beginning of the new season with a 2-1 win over New Road Team (NRT) on Tuesday in the British Gorkha Cup Football Tournament under way at the Dasharath Stadium in Kathmandu.
Diwas Gurung, new signing from Brigade Boys Club, and Prakash Budhathoki scored in either half to give Friends a perfect start to the new season and steer the team into the quarterfinals. Sushil KC was on target for NRT.
Both the teams were reduced to 10 men with only a minute remaining after Santosh Tamang of Friends and Subash Gurung A (Jersey No 12) of NRT went sent off for exchanging blows.
Friends will now take on Manang Marshyangdi Club (MMC) in the quarterfinal.
Friends, whose starting line-up included six new players -- one each from NRT, Sherpa, Bansbari, BBC and two debutants in the top flight -- dominated the first half and created about half-a-dozen scoring chances.
Gurung utilized a pass from Sameer Bista to open the scoring in the 18th minute beating an advancing goalie Raju Yogi in a one-on-one position in the area.
Budhathoki, who was declared man-of-the-match, doubled the tally in the 31st minute with a spectacular strike from 25 yards.
Sushil KC pulled one back for NRT three minutes into the second half. NRT´s new player Bijay Kumal won the ball from defender Santosh Singh, who unnecessarily tried to dribble the ball in the danger zone, and set up KC for the goal.
However, NRT which had only one new face in the starting line-up failed to materialize its dream of hitting back the equalizer.
"We had reached the quarterfinals in the last edition and our target this year is to cross the quarterfinal," said Shree Ram Shrestha, the new Friends coach and former player of the club. Friends had lost 2-0 to Three Star in the last edition of the tournament.
This is the first time that Shrestha has taken charge of the senior team. Shrestha replaced Paras Chaudhary as the coach.
Earlier, in the 15th minute, Santosh Tamang´s long range strike for Friends in the 15th minute sailed inches above the bar. Eight minutes later, Gurung missed the target from an open position. In the 34th minute, Ritesh Malla missed a sitter from close range.
Ravi Silwal´s shot for NRT in the 20th minute was blocked by goalie Luck Karki, new signing from Bansbari, while Ashim Jung Karki´s goal was ruled as offside. In the 44th minute, skipper Laxman Ruchal´s low strike went inches wide. In the 59th minute, Ruchal´s 20-yard strike rebounded off the post after custodian Karki got his hand on the ball.
NRT´s coach Raju Shakya surprisingly said that his side was unable to put in their best as the ground condition was at its best. "My boys have not practiced in a grassy ground. But their performance improved in the second half," Shakya said, adding, "We conceded both goals due to our own mistakes."
Yeti Airlines Himalayan Sherpa Club will lock horns with Samsung Jawalakhel Youth Club in Wednesday´s match.