KATHMANDU- Bishal Rai ‘A’ struck a brace as Jhapa XI stunned A Division League champions Manang Marshyangdi Club (MMC) 2-1 to enter the semi-finals of the Anfa Cup Football Tournament here at the Dashrath Stadium on Tuesday.
Bishal scored either side of the break to eliminate MMC after their first match in inaugural edition of the tournament. Jhapa, who fielded almost all the Machhindra FC regulars in the squad, capitalised on the weak MMC defence to condemn the league champions to defeat in what was their first tournament of the season. Machhindra opted out of the tournament and was later banned for a year by the All Nepal Football Association (Anfa) for “going against the Anfa norms”.
Bishal put Jhapa ahead early in the 17th minute, converting a shot from the edge of the area. It was a wake up call for MMC, who are set to represent Nepal in the AFC President’s Cup scheduled for September 20-26 in Sri Lanka, but the league champions hardly threatened their opponents in the fist half.
Just before conceding the goal, MMC had squandered two chances with Leone Dodoz failing to head home a juicy cross from Biraj Maharjan in the sixth minute and Jhapa custodian Dinesh Thapa Magar punching out a goal-bound Deepak Rai freekick three minutes later.
Deepak Rai brought MMC back in contention in the 53rd minute when he guided a cross from Sulav Maskey into the nets. But their joy was shortlived as a lapse of concentration in the defence saw them concede second goal in the 68th minute.
Gyan Bahadur Magar slid the ball from inside the area for Bishal to slot home the deciding goal. MMC came agonisingly close to level the scores in the 77th minute only to see a Nirajan Malla header sail above the bar.
Jhapa’s coach Bhagirath Ale praised his team for the outstanding result saying that his boys capitalised fully on the defensive errors of the opponents. “Most of our team members knew the opponents very well and their familiarity playing in the pitch also helped in the overall outcome,” said Ale.
Ale, however, was quick to defend that the victory was not a fluke saying his team had also made it to the semi-finals of the Late Bisheshwor Gosh Memorial Football Tournament in Kolkata.
MMC coach Nabin Neupane termed the match as lacklustre and blamed a poor defense for the defeat. “Whenever we erred in defense, they pounced on the opportunity to score,” said Neupane. “The game has served us as an eye opener and we will now work on our weaknesses before embarking on the AFC President’s Cup campaign.”
Three Star Club will take on Nepal Armed Police Force (APF) Club on Wednesday.
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