Three Star edge Army, claim Aaha-Rara title

- DEEPAK PARIYAR, LEKHNATH

Mar 3, 2019-

Three Star Club fought back twice before edging Tribhuvan Army Club in sudden death penalty shootout to claim the 17th Aaha-Rara Gold Cup football tournament title at the Pokhara Stadium on Saturday.

Three Star rallied to salvage 1-1 draw in the regulation time and again overcame a goal deficit in the additional half an hour to finish the 120 minutes playing time in a 2-2 draw. The tiebreaker ended on 4-4 before the Lalitpur-based team overcame departmental giants in sudden death to claim their second silverware of the season and fifth Aaha-Rara title. Three Star had defeated the same opponent in sudden death during the final of the Simara Gold Cup on January 10. Champions Three Star bagged a purse of Rs 800,000 and runner up Army got Rs 400,000.

Tek Bahadur Budathoki had given early lead to Army before Ranjit Dhimal hit back the equaliser through penalty deep into the first half. Bimal Pandey had again restored one-goal cushion for Army in the additional time before Three Star’s Nigerian recruit Peter Segun cancelled the lead. Budathoki, left unmarked inside the zone, made a free header to convert a Deepak Gurung cross from the left flank as early as in the fifth minute.

Three Star came on level terms in the first half stoppage time from penalty after Gurung handled the ball while receiving a cross from Ananta Tamang inside the area promoting referee Sudish Pandey to point towards the spot. Three Star’s penalty specialist Dhimal slammed from the spot to make the scores 1-1. The second half remained goalless as the match was played for additional 30 minutes.

The additional time drama saw both Army and Three Star play with a-man down. Referee Pandey gave direct marching orders to Sunil Bal in the eighth minute for a foul on Bikash Khawas. Pandey seemed to take Army closer to their first ever Aaha-Rara title in the 105th minute after he helped departmental team restore their lead. Nigerian defender Segun came to the rescue for Three Star in the 112th minute with the match leveller. Army also played with a man-down for last few minute after Ashis Shakya, not included in the player’s list, appeared as a substitute.

In the penalty shootout, Three Star custodian Alan Neupane denied two shots from the spot to guide his side to fifth Aaha-Rara title. While skipper Bharat Khawas, George Prince Karki, Santosh Tamang and Bivek Basnet scored from the spot for Army during tiebreaker goalie Bikesh Kuthu was denied by his counterpart Neupane.

For Three Star, Dhimal, Rupesh KC, skipper Bikram Lama and Ananta Tamang converted from the spot. Sushil Lama’s strike rattled on the woodwork. Three Star’s Mikchen Tamang stepped on to take the first shot in the sudden death and was successful before goalie Neupane blocked Bikash Khawas strike to erupt in victory celebration.

Goalie Neupane also won the best player of the tournament, best goalkeeper and man-of-the-match awards. He was rewarded with scooter for his feat as the best player and Rs 10,000 as the-man-of-the-match. Army’s Bimal Pandey (defender), Santosh Tamang (midfielder) and Nawayug Shrestha (forward) collected the individual awards. Three Star’s Meghraj KC was named best coach. All of them were given Rs 15,000 each. Three Star forward Anil Gurung was the highest scorer award for his three-goal haul and collected prize of Rs 25,000. Nepal APF Club bagged the fair play award.

Published: 03-03-2019 11:18

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