POKHARA, Nov 6: Yeti Airlines Himalayan Sherpa Club defeated the U-23 team of Bangladesh in a sudden death thriller on Monday to secure its berth in the semifinals of the Safal Pokhara Cup Football Tournament underway in Pokhara.
Heman Gurung converted the first penalty for Sherpa in the sudden death, while Sherpa goalie Binay Shrestha denied Bangladeshi Sahedul Alam to send the visitors packing from their very first match of the tournament.
Earlier, the regulation time had ended in a 1-1 draw. The extra half-hour failed to produce any goals forcing a tie-breaker, which ended 4-4.
In the tie-breaker, Jangbu Sherpa missed his team´s fourth spot-kick giving the visitors a 4-3 lead. Sherpa was denied by goalie Maksudur Rahman. Ganesh Khadka then converted the fifth penalty for Sherpa while Bangladeshi skipper MD Linkon´s shot hit the post, taking the match to sudden death.
Rupesh KC, Bishwas Shrestha and Sachindra Dhimal all converted the first three penalties for Sherpa. Similarly, Mobarak Hossain, Mezbahul Haque, Tawhidul Alam and Shakawat Hossain Rony were on target for the visitors.
Bangladesh had earlier squandered a golden chance of winning the match during the fourth minute of the added half-hour. Tawhidul Alam failed to score from the spot as Sherpa goalie Binaya Shrestha punched the ball to safety. Bangladesh was awarded the penalty after Suren Thapa handled the ball in the area in a corner kick taken by Mobarak Hossain. Shrestha was later adjudged the man-of-the-match.
Sherpa will take on the winner of Port Trust (Kolkata, India) and Machhindra Club in the semifinal on Thursday. Port Trust and Machhindra are playing on Tuesday.
Earlier, Bangladesh had taken a 25th minute lead after Som Malla of Sherpa scored an own goal while trying to clear Mobarak Hossain´s corner. But a spirited Sherpa found the equalizer three minutes into the second half through Sachindra Dhimal in a corner kick taken by Dinesh Karki.
Both the teams created some scoring chances but failed to convert them. In the 15th minute, Shakawat Hossain Rony fired off the target from the area. In the 36th minute, goalie Binay Shrestha denied Mezbahul Haque´s powerful strike. Mobarak Hossain wasted another chance in the 63rd minute while Tawhidul Alam failed to score in a one-on-one with goalie Shrestha.
Despite the team´s defeat Bangladesh coach Saiful Bari Titu expressed satisfaction with his team´s performance. "The players were physically weak as it is a U-23 team. But they played well," Titu said. "The match was a learning experience for the players and it will be helpful to them in the future."
Sherpa also failed to utilize some scoring opportunities. In the fifth minute, Bangladesh goalie Maksudur Rahman punched skipper Pukar Gahatraj´s strike to safety. Dinesh Kakri missed another chance in the 17th minute. Sherpa´s African recruit A Anthony fired wide despite beating custodian Maksudur Rahman. In the 90th minute, Pukar Gahatraj´s header rebounded off the bar.
Sherpa coach Meghraj KC said his side achieved victory as the players put in great efforts during the entire 120 minutes. "We achieved victory as we never surrendered in the match. The opponents did not score and we played patiently," said KC, adding that the two Nigerian players he had fielded for the first time could not coordinate well with the team. "We have young and physically weak players in the team, so we have hired foreign players to gain physical advantage. We will come up with a better show in the future."