Martins hat-trick lifts Satdobato to top

Martins hat-trick lifts Satdobato to top

Nigerian forward Ajayi Martins struck the first hat-trick of the league as newcomers Satdobato Youth Club gave continuity to their fairytale run with a 4-1 win over APF FC to climb atop the Martyrs Memorial ‘A’ Division League standings at the Dasharath Stadium in Tripureshwar on Friday.

The former Three Star Club forward scored twice before the break and added another goal in the second half. Bikey Tamang hit back consolation for the departmental team, who have yet to open an account in the points table.

In the early kickoff, three times champions Three Star Club struggled for a 1-1 draw by Friends Club to salvage a point. Midfielder Mikchhen Tamang scored a late goal for Three Star to cancel Friends’ early second-half lead by the Trinidadian Nathaniel Garcia.

With the second win and a draw, Satdobato climbed on top of the standings with seven points. But they could lose the top spot to Manang Marshyangdi Club if they beat Sankata Club on Saturday. APF hit the bottom of the table losing all three matches. Three Star are third with four points while Friends, who bagged their second point with a second draw, are joint ninth in the 14-team contest.

Satobato’s Martins opened the scoring three minutes before the break, collecting Sudip Gurung’s pass. The Nigerian forward doubled the advantage in the fifth minute of the first half injury time. Martins headed the ball spilled by APF’s substitute goalkeeper Dil Limbu in his attempt to grab the forward’s first attempt on goal.

APF reduced the deficit four minutes into the restart after Bikey Tamang’s powerful strike hit the back of the net following a deflection at Satdobato defender Karan Ranawat. The match referee ruled it as own goal.

But Satdobato restored their two-goal cushion a minute later with striker Sushil Rai scoring in a one-versus-one situation. Nigerian forward Martins completed his hat-trick, the first of the league, in the 58th to seal the 4-1 victory.

APF coach expressed his frustration at losing the third match in a row. “It was a must win game and the team is under pressure after losing their third match. I was hopeful we could bounce back after conceding the first goal and the second goal also seemed like offside. But we have lost nine points so far and it is not good for the team,” said Thapa.

He, however, claimed that his side played well. “We played with three defenders at times and also created scoring opportunities but failed to utilise them,” he said.

Satdobato coach Meghraj KC said that his side could not play to their potential due to rain. He also lauded the opponents. “They had a really good midfield, but could not make sufficient attempts on goal,” said KC, adding they would play the remaining 10 games for victory. He also stressed the need for improvements by his forwards.

Three Star, known for their star-studded squad and attacking flair in the past, struggle to maintain their hype in the league. They have collected only four points from possible nine with their third match played.

Both sides failed to create threatening chances in the first half though Friends made three attempts, all of them off target. Three Star’s only remarkable chance came in the 25th minute only for forward Sanjok Rai to fire a low ball inches off the target.

Three Star squandered an opportunity five minutes into the restart when forward Ritik Khadka failed to beat Friends’ Indian goalie Rahul Ramchandra Yadav in one-on-one situation fed by Rai. Friends broke the deadlock a minute later after midfielder Garcia made a perfect header to convert captain Prakash Budhathoki’s cross. The Trinidadian made a towering header despite being under tight marking of two defenders to stun Three Star goalie Priso Njanga.

Three Star came closer to levelling scores midway through the second half before Rai’s 20-yard low ball strike rattled the upright only to rebound. Friends captain and influential winger Budhathoki had to be stretchered off in the 80th after he lost his foot balance while shooting at Three Star goal.

Three Star restored parity in the 83rd as midfielder Tamang struck a semi-volley from the crowded zone capitalising on a freekick by Sanjok Rai. Three Star thought they had walked away with three points after a ball punched by an onrushing goalie Yadav to deny Rai’s cross fell in Khadka’s way. The forward fired a quick volley at the unguarded net but defender Ronell Paul headed it just away from the goalline.

Despite losing the lead, Friends coach Mrigendra Mishra said that his side came up with a better show than in their previous outings. “We could have won the match, but conceded due to the lack of coordination between the goalkeeper and defenders,” said Mishra, adding that his captain, Budhathoki, had sustained an ankle injury.

Three Star assistant coach Rabindra Malakar said that his side failed in the finishing department. “We missed a few good scoring opportunities. As we have many midfielders, we came up with a changed formation to suit midfielders. They also created chances but we could not utilise opportunities due to the lack of quality forwards,” said Malakar.

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