POKHARA, Nov 4: Stoppage time drama knocked visitor Druk Pole FC of Bhutan out of the Safal Pokhara Cup Football Tournament from its very first match on Sunday. Druk Pole conceded both the goals during the injury time as it lost 1-2 against New Road Team at the Pokhara Stadium in Pokhara.
Ajay BK emerged the hero for the Kathmandu-based NRT which scored in the first and second minutes of the added nine minutes to turn the tables.
Earlier, the visitors had taken the driving seat in the 22nd minute through Jigme Drakpa in a pass from skipper Sonam Tenzin. The result seemingly looked in favor of the Bhutanese side as it held on to its lead until the end of the regulation 90 minutes.
But the visitors were unlucky to concede the equalizer in the very first minute of the injury time when BK sent the ball past the net in a pass from Subash Gurung B, who was declared the man-of-the-match. The shocked Druk Pole conceded yet another goal a minute later. BK ensured the victory in a pass from Deepen Rai.
Druk Pole had changed its first choice custodian Leki and fielded Tenzin after the former picked injuries during the 88th minute, which Drukpol coach Sangay Rinchin described as one of the main cause for the defeat. "Injury to our first choice goalie turned unfortunate. Leki had fought until the last moment but the second goalie could not perform like Leki."
NRT will now meet Ncell Cup champion Laxmi Hyundai Manang Marshyangdi Club (MMC) in the semifinal to be played on Wednesday.
Earlier, NRT had squandered numerous equalizing chances, including a penalty in the 37th minute. Asim Jung Karki missed the penalty awarded to NRT after Sangay Khandu handled the ball inside the area. Karki fired the spotkick high above the bar. Similarly, Laxman Ruchal also missed an equalizing chance in the 26th minute.
In the 51st minute Subash Gurung B hit wide in a pass from Subash Gurung A. In the 58th minute, NRT´s African recruit Sulaiman Olansile´s freekick rebounded off the bar. Gurung B also missed yet another chance in an unattended post while custodian Leki was already beaten. Roshan Lamichhane´s powerful strike sailed above the bar in the 84th minute.
Druk Pole got few chances compared to NRT. Druk Pole failed to double the score during the half-hour mark as Jigme Drakpa´s strike rebounded off the bar.
Druk Pole coach Rinchin said his side was unable to acclimatize properly in Pokhara which turned to be a major setback for the team. "The players suffered from dehydration during the match."
NRT´s coach Diken Suwal said his side failed to score despite putting up a good show. "In the previous matches as well we faced problems in scoring and the missed penalty was unfortunate for the team. The match could have been different if the penalty had been converted."
Suwal also informed that two foreign players will play in the semifinal clash against MMC. "The next match will be a do-or-die match for us and we will come up with an aggressive strategy," said Suwal, whose side was held to a goalless draw by MMC in the group round of Ncell Cup about a month ago in the capital. MMC had then rested some of its key players.
Meanwhile, the schedule for Monday´s match has been revised and the U-23 team of Bangladesh will lock horns with Yeti Airlines Himalayan Sherpa Club. Earlier, Machhindra Club was scheduled to play against a team from Kolkata.