Wednesday, June 19

Lalitpur Unlocking Their Full Potential, Chitwan Trounced Dominantly

Sandesh Sigdel, Kathmandu

Before the start of the campaign, Lalitpur City FC and FC Chitwan were seen as the clear favorites to lift the Nepal Super League 2 title. Their starts to the campaign might not have gone the way everyone expected it to, but Lalitpur have finally started to look like they know what they’re doing, especially with their full squad available for selection.

 

Lalitpur are now at the top; FC Chitwan, on the other hand, have not lived up to the expectations, at least not so far.

Lalitpur defeated Chitwan 3-1 on Sunday in a fixture that seemed to have no possibility of any other outcome, especially with the way the Lakheys started. Yes, they were that good. But they had to endure an injury scare in the first ten minutes with Sanish Shrestha who has been playing throughout the campaign without cent percent fitness, requiring medical attention but he was deemed fit to continue. 

Chitwan’s head coach, Mehrajuddhin Wadoo, maintained his presence on the touchline throughout the entire ninety minutes. However, he appeared somewhat helpless as Lalitpur showcased a performance that finally aligned with the expectations.

Lalitpur waited until the 13th minute to get a clear sight of goal. Chitwan failed to clear a Lalitpur goalkeeper Jeffrey Baltus clearance that put Dinesh Henjan through down the left. Chitwan’s Montenegrin center-half Marco Inanovic did well to compel Dinesh to shoot with his weaker left foot, bringing out a routine save from Bishal Shrestha. 

Lalitpur had a clear gameplan in the first half, creating overloads on the right with Imoh Ezekiel, Nikhil Kadam and Sanish Shrestha with Dinesh Henjan free to receive switches in the left flank and Papa Kebe, who made his return to the starting XI for the first time in three matches, in position to do his job- score goals. 

That is how Imoh found space on the right flank to cross in the 15th minute but Kebe’s effort to head the ball home wasn’t successful. Chitwan let Lalitpur have their way in the final third in the 18th minute after Imoh pickpocketed Ekraj Budathoki to create a two-vs-one sequence. His pass to Kebe resulted in a shot but Bishal came off the line to make a brilliant save. 

However, in the following minute, Lalitpur managed to break the deadlock. Kareem’s impeccable long pass was expertly controlled by Imoh, allowing him to cross the ball to the far post for Dinesh. Dinesh, in turn, brought the ball down and delivered a precise cross to Kebe. Kebe efficiently placed the ball into the back of the net from close range, leaving his marker while also leaving Bishal with no chance whatsoever.

Chitwan gradually grew into the game with patient build-ups forcing saves out of Lalitpur’s French shot-stopper Baltus, first by Bimal in the 29th minute and later from Aminu two minutes later. On the flip side, Imoh had a close opportunity to widen the gap between the teams just before halftime, but his deflected effort brushed the top of the crossbar.

Lalitpur resumed the proceedings in the second half right where they left off, with an early header from Imoh saved by Bishal. Their persistent attacks paid off in the 57th minute with a remarkable goal from Bibek Poudel. The play unfolded with a Kareem free-kick from the right, finding Dinesh, whose cross was initially headed clear to the edge of the box where Bibek was stationed. Bibek’s first-time volley left Bishal with no chance, and Lalitpur joyously celebrated what was a well-deserved goal for Ian Andrew Gillan’s side.

Chitwan persistently pressed into the Lalitpur box with numerous chances, but they struggled to keep Baltus, the Lalitpur goalkeeper, occupied. Nonetheless, their efforts paid off with a goal in the 89th minute courtesy of Rafiq Aminu. However, Chitwan’s hopes were short-lived as Utsav Rai committed a foul inside the box against substitute Aditya Shakya in the following minute, resulting in a penalty and Rai being sent off due to a second yellow card.

Kebe confidently stepped up to convert the penalty, extending the scoreline to 3-1. Aminu added to Chitwan’s frustration by hitting the crossbar in the fifth minute of added time. Yet, in a counter-attack, Kebe narrowly missed securing a hat-trick as his shot struck the frame at the opposite end.

Lalitpur have racked up nine points in five matches that include two wins and three draws. Chitwan, on the other hand, have five points from as many matches, winning just one, drawing two and losing two.

Pokhara Thunders and Kathmandu RayZrs will lock horns in Monday’s solitary fixture at 5 PM at the Dasharath Stadium.

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