POKHARA, Jan 23: Army Club edged past NIBL Friends Club 3-0 in the Aaha-Rara Gold Cup here on Wednesday to reach the quarterfinals of the tournament. Friends had held Army to a goalless draw in their first match of the Martyrs Memorial A Division League on November 23.
Army´s Ram Kumar Biswas opened the scoring in a corner off Tanka Basnet in the 30th minute of the match. Tek Bahadur Budhathoki converted a spot kick to double the lead in the 68th minute after Friends´ Peter Sagun handled the ball in the area.
Deep Lama made it 3-0 in the injury time of the second half as he sent home the ball in a cross off Santosh Nepali. Nepali was later adjudged man-of-the-match.
Earlier, Army missed several scoring opportunities. Friends´ goalkeeper Bashir Ibrahim blocked Hari Mahato´s header in a cross from Mahendra Khawas in the 23rd minute while Peter cleared Mahato´s shot six minutes later. Likewise, Bashir denied Tanka Basnet in the 62nd minute.
On the other hand, Friends created very few chances in the match. Army goalie Gangaram Deuja denied Ritesh Malla in the 14th minute while Malla´s shot in the 41st minute hit the woodwork.
Army will take on Nepal Police Club in the quarterfinal of the tournament.
As the All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) has already called up players for the national team´s training, Friends was without six of its regular players and Army without four.
Both the teams said absence of their key players affected their performance.
"All the players had arrived in Pokhara but we had to send back six key players to Kathmandu for the national team´s training. We received the information very late and we suffered," said Friends coach Kumar Pradhan. ANFA has called up Sagar Thapa, Deepak Bhusal, Jagjit Shrestha, Nirajan Khadka, Prakash Budhathoki and Santosh Tamang from Friends for the training.
Army coach Sahila Maharjan said his physically stronger players had advantage over the opposition´s weak defense. However, he also lamented the absence of experienced players. Army´s Jitendra Karki, Raju Tamang, Nawayug Shrestha and ace striker Bharat Khawas have been selected for the national team training.
McDowell´s Ranipokhari Corner Team (RCT) will take on Southern Samitee, India on Thursday.