Sudesh Baniya, Kathmandu
To say Ilam and Chitwan put up an evenly-poised competition would be true but for all the wrong reasons. The story on Saturday was of missed chances, flashes of great goalkeeping, and a counterbalance in tactics that did not lead to anything substantial for either side.
The first effort of the match that saw Samit Shrestha between the bars in place of suspended Ilam skipper Bikesh Kuthu fell to Rafiq Aminu in the second minute, an effort Shrestha comfortably dealt with towards his right.
Chitwan’s attack came from the left throughout the first half, with Tshiring Gurung, Aminu, and Torric Jebrin combining to put shots in Ilam’s post. Of the six attacks that Chitwan managed in the first half, most of which either went flying or ended up in Shrestha’s gloves.
Although spontaneous chances fell for Ilam during the first 45 minutes, the outcome was similar to that of their opponents. The story, however, was different in how the chances went begging. Fode Camara’s sumptuous cross in the 12th minute, one that evaded everyone was unattended and subsequent chances that fell to Nabin Lama and Amath Ndaw flew past the post by some distance.
The first half concluded similarly to its commencement, with a chance of falling for Aminu and ultimately ending up in Shretha’s gloves.
The story of the latter half was no different. Bishal Shrestha’s save to deny Fode Camara in the 62nd minute was the highlight not only for the save that he produced but also for a rare occasion that saw Ilam’s shot carry a danger for Chitwan.
The most promising chance fell late for Chitwan, with Aminu’s cross in the dying minutes of the match, failing to meet Bimal Gharti Magar inside the six-yard box.
By the time the final whistle blew, Ilam were limited to 10 men, with Ndaw seeing a red card, adding tension to the team’s already scarred experiences with the tournament’s refereeing. This time, however, it seemed like a fair one.
The goalless draw now separates the two by only a point, with both sides conceding eight so far – second worst tally in the league – and securing only one win. The quest for a second win for either side will now be left to their last season fixtures, with FC Chitwan facing Jhapa and Ilam locking horns against Lalitpur City FC.