NPL Sports, Jan 22nd Jan: Manang Marshyangdi Club (MMC) defeated Jhapa XI 4-3 in a seven-goal thriller to book a semi-final berth at the Madan Bhandari Memorial Itahari Gold Cup football tournament on Sunday.
Jhapa conceded three goals within 18 minutes of kickoff courtesy a Sujal Shrestha hat-trick but showed a remarkable character to bounce back into the game. However, they eventually fell just short to crash out of their first match of the tournament.
Nepali international winger Shrestha gave early fifth minute lead to MMC after he collected a ball that rebounded from the post from the initial Victor shot. Shrestha doubled his team’s advantage in the 12th minute, scoring from the penalty spot. MMC were awarded the spot kick after Dilen Loktan handed the ball inside the danger zone.
MMC appeared set to seal the semi-final after Shrestha completed his hat-trick in the 18th minute which he scored from a freekick. However, the match was far from over as Jhapa made a great recovery to pull one back in the 28th minute through Karna Limbu. The Jhapa forward cleverly slotted the ball at the post from long range taking advantage of advancing MMC goalkeeper Dinesh Thapa Magar.
Jhapa kept on searching for more goals and were duly rewarded in the 68th minute as MMC defender Bimal Basnet cracked under pressure to concede an own goal. The second Jhapa goal helped MMC rise from the slumber and they restored the two-goal lead when Bishal Rai struck in the 76th minute.
Jhapa reduced the deficit when Limbu struck again to make it 4-3 six minutes later but it was as close as they could come. Yogesh Gurung fed the ball to Limbu after intercepting a pass from MMC goalie Thapa Magar to Henry.
Shrestha was declared man-of-the-match and won Rs 10,000 for his performance. Tribhuvan Army Club will take on Durke United of Bhutan on Monday.
The champions will walk away with Rs 1.2 million and the runners-up will take home Rs 500,000.