Kathmandu- Leader Manang Marshyangdi Club is just one game away from the title after a stubborn 1-0 win over departmental team Nepal Police Club in the ongoing Martyr’s Memorial A-Division League in Lalitpur on Sunday.
At the All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) Complex at Satdobato, the only goal came from Adelaja Somide Oluwawunmi in the second half that sealed the game for Manang, whose defense was very hard to break. As a testimony of its excellent defense, the team has conceded only four goals in the tournament so far.
A win against Sankata Club in the 11th round will seal the title for Manang as it has 30 points from 10 games, while Sankata has 25 from the same number of games. In the third place, Three Star has 23 points from 10 games.
Manang took the lead through Somide after Heman Gurung gave a long pass to the Nigerian and he just provided a touch to the ball that went past the Police defense and goalkeeper Arpan Karki in the 52nd minute.
Manang dominated the first half creating several important chances, but could not find a way through. Both the teams held possession and attacked in the first 30 minutes of the match. The end-to-end game could not provide a goal in the first period, and the defensive displays from both the teams prevented them from scoring.
Bishal Rai got a free-kick for Manang in the 35th minute, he threaded the ball looking for captain Biraj Maharjan, but the full back’s shot was excellently saved by keeper Karki. Somide hit another brilliant shot on target just after two minutes of scoring, but Karki brilliantly saved the ball denying Manang its second goal.
Police started pushing for the goal and Ajit Bhandari nearly found the net for the departmental team, but his fierce header was saved by Manang keeper Bishal Shrestha.
Police nearly scored from a counter-attack with both of its fullbacks and the midfielder setting the play, but an excellent defensive resilience from Manang hindered it from scoring.
Police’s Ravishankar Paswan put a cross in the box looking for Bhandari, but his header was straight into the hands of the Manang keeper in the 61st minute.
The team again missed a glorious chance to equalize when Tej Tamang gave a pass to Abhishek Rijal inside the box, but his poor shot was easily dealt with by the keeper in the 68th minute.
Manang had another chance to double the lead as Bimal Rana hit a strong shot looking for the top corner, but Police keeper Karki made a strong save to deny him two minutes from time.
In the other match played earlier on the same day, departmental team Armed Police Force (APF) Club ended the other departmental team Tribhuvan Army Club’s chance of winning the title with a 2-1 win.
The highest Army can conclude the league is at the second place, and its chance of winning the title is mathematically over as even if it wins all its remaining games, it will only have 27 points.
Two goals from Ashish Lama sealed the win for APF. Army got a goal back in the 86th minute as Nawayug Shrestha scored for the team.
Lama gave APF the lead in the 56th minute as he received a long pass from his keeper Amrit Kumar Chaudhary and he controlled the ball and finished, while he doubled its lead in the 85th minute as he shot the ball from just inside the box after receiving a pass from Shyam Nepali. Army scored a consolation in the 86th minute after the game was all but done.
With the win, APF has climbed up to the fifth place with 16 points, while Army is just two points ahead of APF in the fourth place.
“It was difficult for us to win the game against Police than the other games. We got three points in the game working very hard against a tough opponent,” Manang coach Suman Shrestha said. “I am satisfied with the performances of the players despite some of them not being fully fit.”
Police head coach Ananta Thapa said that the lack of combination between the keeper and the defense line in the second half was the reason behind the loss, despite starting the first half well.
“A lack of experience was clearly visible in the players. Despite creating chances to score, we could not do it because of a lack of experience,” Thapa said. “We played well against Manang. Our goal is to finish inside the top six.”