Tuesday, February 27

Birgunj’s Controversial Win Derails Ilam’s Playoffs Aspirations

Sandesh Sigdel, Kathmandu

In a match filled with controversial refereeing decisions, Birgunj United FC registered a late 2-1 win against Sporting Ilam FC to get their first win in the Nepal Super League. The match, heading towards a stalemate, was pushed towards controversy after Birgunj were awarded a penalty with an apparent handball from Suraj Basnet in the fourth minute of added time.

Referee Kabin Byanjarkar was close when everything unfolded. Without much appeal from Birgunj, he proceeded to point to the spot, enraging Ilam players on the pitch as well as the ones in the dugout. 

However, after a lengthy stop due to Ilam’s annoyance, William Opoku stepped up to score the penalty and hand his side their first-ever win. Keeping the final minutes aside, there were a few questionable decisions from the man with the whistle earlier in the match as well.

He opted not to send Ilam goalkeeper Bikesh Kuthu off after he handled the ball outside the box in his attempt to sweep a long pass from deep for Obed Osuwu. 

The 34th minute of the match witnessed a two-foot studs-up challenge from Amath Ndaw on Sudip Gurung that only warranted a yellow card for Ilam number ten. 

Ilam head coach Meghraj KC opted to bench Biraj Maharjan for Aashish Gurung who was back after serving a one-match suspension. Goalkeeper Bikesh Kuthu also made his return from injury. KC also opted to start Ashish Chapagain from the very start up front.

Aashish Chapagain was the one who gave his side the lead in the 15th minute with an excellent finish from inside the box. He hit into the roof of the net after excellently controlling a pass from outside the box to set himself up for the shot. 

Bhison Gurung equalized for Birgunj in the 33rd minute in an anticlimactic way. He was the lone man who had surged inside the box to get to the end of a ball-in from Sushil Lama and expertly put the ball in between Bikesh’s feet to level the score. 

However, there was a lot of controversy that was seen towards the end of a match that had questionable decisions throughout. But the referees, after the decision towards the end, were confronted by aggrieved Ilam players. Byanjankar sent Bikesh off after the final whistle. The officials had to be taken inside their dressing with heavy security as bottles were being hurled at them from agitated Ilam supporters.

Birgunj, after the win, despite controversy, have climbed to seventh on the table with five points from five matches. Ilam, having played six matches, have four points from six matches and sit at the bottom.

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