Outsider Jhapa XI made a flying start in the ANFA Cup Football Tournament, defeatingleague champion Manang Marshyangdi Club (MMC) 2-1 in the inaugural match held in Dasarath Rangashala, Tripureswar, Kathmandu, on Tuesday.
Bishal Rai ‘A’ was the man of the day, putting Jhapa ahead twice. MMC’s lone goal came from Deepak Rai whose second half equalizer lasted just 15 minutes.
With the win Jhapa XI goes through to the semi-finals while MMC was knocked out.
Bishal put Jhapa XI in front just 13 minutes into the game, skilfully navigating through MMC’s week defence.
MMC’s early attempts came from Nirajan Malla and Deepak Rai whose shots were fended by Jhapa goalie Dinesh Thapa. Karna Limbu also missed a chance to score for Jhapa early in the fifth minute.
With half time nearing, MMC coach Nabin Neupane replaced Anil Gurung with Sulav Maskey in the 42nd minute.
MMC soon got an opportunity but Nirajan Malla’s shot from Sulav Maskey’s corner kick went out of the post.
MMC entered the field in the second half without captain Sagar Thapa, who was replaced by Rupesh KC. MMC was a bit more rejuvenated. After a missed header in the 48th minute, Deepak Rai levelled the score in the 53rd minute.
But it was downhill for MMC after that as Bishal Rai scored the winner off a cross from substitute Gyan Magar in the 68th minute.
In a post-match press briefing, MMC coach Nabin Neupane accepted that the team’s weakness was defence. “We made three mistakes in the defence line. Jhapa turned two of those into goals.”
Jhapa coach Bhagirath Ale was predictably beaming during the briefing.
“Despite training for only around five days, the team was in form as it had recently played a tournament in Naxal Barri in India,” Ale said. “We also won the title in the ‘Late Bisheshore Gosh Winner Cup’ but we couldn’t field the same team in the final there due to this ANFA Cup.”
“The team was confident in the field as some players are pretty familiar with this ground.”
The Armed Police Force team will take on Three Star Club on Day 2 of the tournament on Wednesday.