By Anjan Khadka , Kathmandu, Apr. 8 : Tribhuvan Army Club took full advantage of home turf to come from behind to thrash Sri Lankan Police Team 5-1 in their first AFC Cup match played at Dasarath Stadium, Kathmandu on Wednesday.
Nawayug Shrestha struck two goals whereas Santosh Tamang, Tanka Bahadur Basnet and Sudil Rai also netted one goal each to give the Army a win in the first play-off of the AFC CUP preliminary round.
The win over the Sri Lankan team sent the Army to the second play-off against Indian National team Captain Sunil Chhetri’s Bengaluru Football Club to be held on April 14.
They will have to overcome Bengaluru to book the ticket to the play-off final to be held on April 21. The winner from the play-off will secure their spot in the group 'D' in the group stage of the Cup.
The runners-up of the first division league TAFC got the opportunity to compete in the AFC Cup after League champion Machhindra FC failed to get the AFC Club Licence. TAFC is the only top-tier team of Nepali to be awarded the Licence.
Though Army made an offensive start against the visitors, they conceded the goal first in a run against the play.
Sri Lankan shot-stopper Dinesh Mahendran foiled the powerful shot off Santosh Tamang from the box in the 10th minute.
Two minutes later Bharat Khawas’ shot was cleared from the goal line by A Nicholas. Bharat again was disappointed after his header was punched away by Sri Lankan Keeper in the 13th minutes.
After his first attempt was warded off by Army custodian Bishwas Chaudhary in the 21st minute, Evans succeed to keep the visitors ahead by finding the net seven minutes later. He easily scored in the pass off Issac Adevu.
Army, however, restored the parity in the 41st minute with Santosh scoring from outside of the box. Sri Lankan defender cleared the long throw ball off Bikash Khawas, which Santosh made no mistake with his half-volley shot.
Two minutes later Nawayug gave Army 2-1 lead by heading the ball provided by Skipper Bharat from the right flank.
Urged on by five thousand home supporters, Army maintained the momentum and added three more goals in the second half. Tanka extended the lead in 50 minutes as he pounded the ball punched away by Sri Lankan gloveman.
Substitute Sudil made the tally 4-1 in the 83rd minute. Sudil replaced Tank Basnet in the 63rd minutes.
Nawayug scored his second goal in the injury time to seal the match for Army. Nawayug snatched the back pass of Sri Lankan defender to have the last laugh for Army.
AFC head Coach Nabin Neupane was delighted to complete the task against Sri Lankan Police with a 100 per cent effort.
"We played well against the visitors because of long training for the play-off. The second playoff will be a high-level contest and I believe on my players," Coach Neupane said.
Coach Neupane informed his team will be missing their first choice goalie Bikesh Kuthu and Striker George Prince Karki against Bengaluru in their second play-off.
Sri Lankan Police head Coach Jhilau Alpensu was delighted with the performance of his players despite the humiliating defeat. "My boys are inexperienced and it is our first international match.”