Sudesh Baniya, Kathmandu
It seemed like it was not meant to be for Meghraj KC’s Sporting Ilam De Mechi Football Club in a game that looked to be on the brink of the first half and eventually ended on a thrilling 2-2 draw against Dhangadi Football Club.
The woes started with skipper Bikesh Kuthu getting sidelined minutes before the kick-off, followed by Abdoulaye Ba, who clenched his stomach on the way out in just the fourth minute. The replacements, however, Samit Shrestha on goal and Nabin Lama in the midfield, did not come to haunt Ilam back.
Shrestha was kept busy on goal throughout the first half, with Dhangadi repeatedly trying to play Ahmed Hijazi through. The first of those occasions came in the 13th minute as Ashish Chaudhary threaded a ball in, forcing a save out of Shrestha. Rohan Karki was through on goal ten minutes later but was denied by the Ilam goalkeeper.
Dhangadi FC seldom looked comfortable with their tactics in the first half, regularly conceding chances which called Devendra Tamang and Diagne Fallou into action frequently.
Ilam’s resurgence came just at the cusp of the first half. Amath Ndaw put Fode Camara through on goal in the 45th minute for a tap-in that looked harder to miss than to score. The other chance fell in their favor just two minutes later, as Taha spilled Nabin Lama’s corner for Omar Thiom to tap the ball in with similar ease.
Dhangadi came firing in the second half, however. Fode Fofana and Afeez Olawale looked more involved, particularly supported by Randip Poudel and Hijazi, forcing save after save from Shrestha in Ilam’s goal.
The first of Dhangadi’s goals came from the penalty spot, as Richard Osei Agyemang sent the keeper another way to go towards Ilam’s right. Ibrahim Djite fouled Fofana inside the box to concede a penalty – a decision that would later be the point of discontent amongst the Ilam officials and fans alike.
The attacks kept coming into Ilam’s box, leaving no time for the defense to settle down. The final nail in the coffin for Ilam came through Olawale Afeez, who did just well to beat his marker and meet Fofana’s cross before putting the header past Samit Shrestha at the far post.
The final action of the game came in the added time, as Ramchandra Wajee hit the post in the added minutes of the tie, allowing the game to settle at two all.
Dhangadhi FC now sit at the top of the table with eight points from four matches and will face second-place FC Chitwan on December 14. Sporting Ilam FC, still looking for a win, have four points from five matches and will continue their quest against bottom-placed Birgunj United FC on December 13, contemplating the return of their captain Bikesh Kuthu on goal.