POKHARA, Nov 3: Nirajan Malla netted a brace and set pass for another goal as Laxmi Hyundai Manang Marshyangdi Club (MMC) stormed into the semifinal with a 3-1 victory over the departmental team Armed Police Force (APF) on Saturday in the Safal Pokhara Cup Football Tournament being held in Pokhara.
MMC, the winner of Ncell Cup held about a month ago in the capital, scored all three goals during the initial half with the third goal coming from its skipper Anil Gurung.
Ganesh Lawati got the consolation for APF. With the win, MMC also maintained an unbeaten run to seven matches in the current season.
MMC will take on the winner of New Road Team (NRT) and Druk Pole FC of Bhutan in the semifinal of Wednesday.
Malla, who was declared man-of-the-match, opened the score in the 18th minute with a header in a pass from Samir Limbu who collected skipper Gurung´s rebounder from the cross bar before setting it to Malla.
Malla, doubled the advantage two minutes later in a cross from Amir Shrestha. In the 27th minute, Malla set pass for skipper Gurung, who made it 3-0.
Ganesh Lawati cut the goal deficit five minutes before the interval but failed to score other goals and was sent crashing out of the tournament. Santosh Shrestha had supplied the pass to Lawati.
APF that came under pressure from the beginning squandered some scoring chances as well. Shyam Nepali´s strike hit the woodwork a few moments before the interval. Similarly, Ranjan Bista fired inches above in the 69th minute.
MMC also wasted a scoring chance in the second minute. Skipper Gurung fired wide from the cross bar. Gurung also wasted another chance in the 12th minute in Malla´s pass.
APF coach Janak Singh Tharu blamed weak defense of his side for the defeat. "Our defense line up was horrible today. The opponent´s confidence level rose after they scored early goals while we came under pressure," said Tharu.
MMC coach Krishna Thapa who maintained his cent percent unbeaten run after he joined the club said that they were able to register easy win due to regular training following Ncell Cup. "The players could have been exhausted had not they trained regularly. But they played in same tune from the beginning to finish," said Thapa, adding that the result was also possible due to tactical and technical fitness of players.
NRT will take on Druk Pole FC of Bhutan on Sunday.
The gatekeepers deployed at the Pokhara Stadium on Saturday misbehaved with media persons during the match between Manang Marshyangdi Club and Armed Police Force (APF) at the Safal Pokhara Cup. Trying to bar reporters from entering into the stadium, they made holes on the gate pass of reporters.
The gate keepers asked why the media persons had arrived late for the match. The reporters had arrived at the stadium a few moments before kick off. "The match has already kicked off. How will you report about the match," one of the gatekeepers asked media persons gathered there for the match.
Tournament coordinator Gopi Bhattarai later apologized for the incident and assured that such actions would not be repeated.