POKHARA, Feb 7: National champion Nepal Police Club crashed out from the quarterfinals of the 10th Aaha Gold Cup Football Tournament following a 1-0 defeat at the hands of arch rival Laxmi Hyundai Manang Marshyangdi Club (MMC) on Thursday in Pokhara, Kaski.
A lone goal from Amir Shrestha in the 39th minute was enough to send MMC through to the semifinals. Shrestha, on loan from Armed Police Force (APF), scored into the far post from 25 yards in a cross from African player Adejola Jacob to stun Police custodian Bishal Shrestha.
MMC will now take on African United in the semifinal to be played on Thursday.
Four-time champion Police came under pressure from the beginning. Both Police and MMC were without some of their most instrumental players in the match. Six players of Police and eight players of MMC are in the national team´s training for the AFC Challenge Cup.
Police had a couple of scoring chances but failed to convert them. Skipper Dipendra Paudel missed a scoring chance in the 72nd minute while Pradip Baniya squandered another opportunity for Police in the 79th minute as he failed to coordinate with Roshan Karki. In the stoppage time, Suraj Bishwakarma´s header sailed above the bar.
MMC missed nearly half-a-dozen scoring opportunities. In the 19th minute, Yugal Kishor Rai hit wide in a one-on-one with goalie Bishal Shrestha, and again missed a similar chance in the 40th minute. In the 48th minute, Samir Limbu headed above the bar in Amir Shrestha´s cross. In the 89th minute, Sulav Maskey´s powerful strike from 20 yards rebounded off the cross bar.
Sambo Anatole of MMC was adjudged the man-of-the-match.
Police coach Birat Krishna Shrestha said his side was defeated as the players failed to hold the ball and mostly played one-touch football. "Six of our key players were also absent," Shrestha said, adding, "Though key players of both the teams were absent, my boys could not play in their proper positions," Shrestha said.
MMC coach Hari Om Shrestha said the victory was made possible by his side´s better performance in the midfield. "The pitch of Pokhara is difficult and the boys missed several scoring chances," said Shrestha. He vowed to come up with a better show in the next match.
The semifinals will begin from Wednesday with Samsung Jawalakhel Youth Club taking on I-League side Pune FC in the first semifinal.