Football: Thimphu City’s prospects to compete in the AFC Cup playoffs ended when the Citizens were handed a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Club Valencia from the Maldives last week at the national stadium in Malé.

The pressure started to build from the get go for the visitors. Goalie Ngawang Jamphel was probably the busiest man on the team waving off  some crucial Maldivian strikes.

Passang Tshering introduced two new players to his first-eleven. As expected Chencho Gyeltshen was the man put in charge to terrorise Valencia’s defence along with Tshering Wangdi. Youngster Orgyen Wangchuk Tshering also featured alongside national skipper Karma Shedrup Tshering.

City adapted a 3-5-2 formation with Jigme T Dorji, Karun Gurung and Chencho in the backline. Skipper Tshering Dorji was supported by the cousin duo of Orgyen and Shedrup in the middle.

As wing-backs, the versatile duo of Biren Basnet and Nima Wangdi could have pulled off some surprises from either of the flanks. However, things didn’t turn out for City as planned.

The idea was to score and score early in the game. The new formation didn’t work out well for the Citizens. Long-balls flew in throughout the match for City. However with the lack of accuracy in the passes it failed to find Chencho and Tshering in the front.

On the other hand, Valencia had figured out the game within minutes of the first whistle. While City had the altitude advantage in the first leg in Thimphu, Valencia had the upper hand in the scorching heat of Malé.

Valencia’s confidence was vivid in the way they maintained possession of the ball. The short passes and skilful dribbling from the islanders contributed to the draining of City’s vigour.

However, the first-leg stalemate continued throughout a goalless first half. With the pressure building on the visitors, City did make a few opportunities to test the Maldivian goalie. City could have scored the first goal had Karma Shedrup got an early touch on the cross that was delivered from Chencho Gyeltshen in the 32nd minute.

Valencia’s Nigerian players had a commanding role during the game. Striker West made several attempts to break the deadlock but could not get past Ngawang Jamphel at the post. On several occasions, the duo of Ngawang and Nima Wangdi saved City’s face from conceding an early goal.

The first goal of the match came from substitute Hamdhaan Ibrahim in the 78th minute, which could have possibly been avoided had the City held their defensive positions intact. The goal came from a counterattack after City failed to capitalise on a corner kick.

Nigerian midfielder, Prince Chinonye, doubled Valencia’s lead in the 84th minute. Striker Ahmed Rilwan after miss-footing the lone defender Chencho inside the box, wrapped up the victory for the home team.

Had City played with their usual formation and maintained more of the ball possession and condensed their long-balls, the visitors could have had a chance to advance in the next round.

Nevertheless, the Citizens played their first continental match with composure and proficiently. Had they won the first leg at the Changlimithang Stadium, the overall scenario and the final score sheet after the second leg could have been a different story.

Younten Tshedup