POKHARA: Hosts Sahara Club will play a match of their lifetime when they take on Lalitpur-based ‘A’ Division outfit Three Star Club in the final of the 11th Aaha-Rara Gold Cup here at the Pokhara Stadium on Saturday.
Coming into the 11th edition, this is the first time the hosts have come so close to win a title reaching their first final of a tournament they have been hosting for years. Sahara are running with good form but Three Star will be a tough nut to crack despite the Martyrs Memorial ‘A’ Division League leaders being without their eight regular starters.
Sahara would like to make the most of the absence of Three Star regulars who have been called by national team coach Jack Stefanowski for close-camp training. Three Star are without striker Santosh Sahukhala, goalkeeper Kiran Chemjong, midfielder Bijaya Gurung, Bijaya Dhimal, Bikram Lama, Anil Ojha along with defenders Biraj Maharjan and Sandip Rai.
On the contrary, Sahara have bolstered their squad with the inclusion of ‘A’ Division League players Yona Elias, Boni Michael, Man Bahadur Tamang, Subin Shrestha, Adarsha Dhahi, Sujan Lama, Buddha Lama, Hem Tamang, Ajit Prajapati and Bibek Pratap Panta. Sahara coach Kiran Shrestha was confident of winning the title.
“Our team is well set after making a long way into the final. They have performed very well as a unit and I am confident of winning the title,” said Shrestha at a press conference today.
Sahara’s hopes of winning a historical Aaha-Rara title will depend much on how their ‘A’ Division players perform — particularly Yona Elias who has scored 16 goals while playing with Saraswoti Youth Club in the first round of the League.
His Three Star counterpart Pradip Humagain was equally confident. “We have come here to win the title though we don’t have our regular players.
It’s a game so anything can happen. Our second string team has performed equally well,” said Humagain. Three Star will pin their hopes on skipper and defender Bishnu Sunwar apart from striker Femi Joshua and Under-17 rookie Anil Gurung.
On their way to the final, Sahara sidelined title contenders Machhindra FC (1-0), Laxmi Hyundai Manang Marshyangdi Club (4-1 in tie breaker) in the quarter-finals and Tribhuvan Army Club (4-2 in tie breaker) in the semi-finals. Drawn directly in the quarter-finals, Three Star defeated Ranipokhari Corner Team (5-3 in tie breaker) before edging Samsung Jawalakhel Youth Club (2-1) in the semi-finals.