Friday, May 24

Defending Champions Kathmandu Shocked By Birgunj’s Onslaught 

Sandesh Sigdel, Kathmandu

Defending champions Kathmandu RayZrs were dealt with a massive blow in their playoff bid in the second edition of the Nepal Super League after their 4-1 loss against Birgunj United FC in an encounter that could have taken them closer to the top four in case of any other upshot.

William Opoku’s hat-trick and an own goal from Anjan Rai made up the four goals for Birgunj. But it was Kathmandu who stomped their foot first in the game. In the 20th minute, Nkengue Junior capitalized on a ball redirected towards him by Tej Tamang’s unsuccessful clearance following Hisub Thapaliya’s struggle to control a Kuldip Karki cross and put Kathmandu in front.

However, in the 38th minute, Kathmandu wasted a big opportunity to double the lead through a penalty. Dipenk Raj Singh Thakuri’s attempt to dispossess Hisub was unsuccessful as he brought the Kathmandu marquee down inside the box, handing the local side with an opportunity to put a clear daylight between them. But up stepped Birgunj’s marquee, Deep Karki, who rose to the occasion and saved Shokhrukh’s penalty down to his right to keep his team in the game. 

Kathmandu were left to complain towards the end of the first half when an Andres Nia header, what looked to be a header at least, was deemed a handball by Indian referee Surojit Das and handed Birgunj a penalty. Opoku stepped up to put the ball in the back of the net and keep the score level going into the break. 

The start of the second half was eventful in favor of Birgunj. Birgunj took the lead in the very first minute of the second half. Dipenk’s long ball from deep was met by Obed Osuwu’s run in the left flank who then went past Kingue Oliver to put a cross in the six-yard box. Anjan Rai’s attempt to keep Sunil Khadka at bay and clear the ball guided the ball into his own net. 

Birgunj didn’t halt their momentum; it was still to be Opoku’s moment to shine. A brilliantly hit Sushil Lama corner kick was headed into the back of the net by Opoku to hand his side a two-goal cushion. A minute later, however, Opoku had better ideas up his sleeve.

It was Sushil Lama’s long ball from the back, this time, that found Opoku almost 40 yards out from goal. Opoku caught Anzal Shrestha, the Kathmandu goalkeeper, by surprise with a lob over him to punish him for coming off his line and completing his hat trick, the first of this year’s NSL.

After securing the victory, Birgunj have also kept their chances of reaching the playoffs. They have right points in six games. Kathmandu, who suffered defeat and currently hold the fifth position, have nine points in seven games.

The upcoming match on Saturday between Kathmandu and Lalitpur will essentially be like a knockout. Considering the outcomes of other matches, a win against Butwal on the same day in the afternoon could also pave the way for Birgunj to secure a spot in the playoffs.

Two matches are scheduled for the NSL tomorrow. The first match will witness a clash between the top two teams, Pokhara Thunders and Dhangadhi FC. While Pokhara aim to secure its place in the top two, Dhangadhi must secure a win to make it to the playoffs.

Jhapa FC and FC Chitwan will face each other in the second match of the day. A victory for Jhapa could potentially lead them to the playoffs, while Chitwan are no longer in contention for the playoff journey.

In the Nepal Super League (NSL), the top two teams in the league table will engage in a qualifier match to directly advance to the finals. The team losing in the qualifier will then have another opportunity to play a qualifier against the winners of the third and fourth-placed teams in the league.

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