Football: Thimphu City FC settled for a goalless stalemate against Club Valencia from the Maldives in the first leg of the AFC Cup preliminary round on January 31 at the Changlimithang Stadium in Thimphu.

A victory would have been a superb result for the home team. Now with one point each, both the teams will have to start from scratch in the second leg of the round scheduled next week in Malé.

The first half was a stale 45 minutes with neither team creating any clear-cut chances. Much to the dismay of the spectators, there was neither flair nor intent to win in the first half. As the host team, City failed to deliver a full-out attack probably because of the fear that it would compromise their defence line.

The backline, however, looked rock solid for both the teams. The Bhutanese custodian, Ngawang Jamphel, was guarded by veteran Chencho who was assisted by the versatile Biren Basnet. Nima Wangdi and Jigme T Dorji made every effort to wave off the Maldivian attacks.

However, with minimal input from both the flanks, striker Tshering Wangdi could do little to pose any threat to the goalie Mohamed Faisal who displayed an outstanding performance during the game.

However the tide changed in favour of the host in the second half when the team came up with a revamped game plan. City became more adventurous and started to pour more players into the opponent’s half. The entry of Chencho Gyeltshen in the 50th minute had an immediate impact on the game.

Doing what he does best, the striker made Valencia’s defense work for their draw. He created a couple of chances of which at least two could have disturbed the opponent’s net had it been more precise.

As Thimphu City started to pour on attack after attack with skipper Tshering Dorji and Karma Shedrup also making several attempts to test Mohamed Faisal, Club Valencia was doing everything to fend off the assaults, which they did successfully with the whole team defending the goalie.

Time wasting was employed as a tactic throughout the game and a player was also booked for the same act. The weather also took a toll on the visitors with at least five of them falling during the game. However, Club Valencia should be happy with the draw, and will be looking for a swift win in Malé .

Thimphu City can also take heart from this goalless draw. It will be an interesting tie if City scores the first away goal. The game is surely poised to be an enthralling one. And if the victory is secured, City will have done it the hard way, which is the best way for the champions.

Meanwhile, City leaves for the Maldives today and will play on February 7 at the National Stadium in Malé. Passang Tshering is expected to play with the same formation of 4-3-2-1 with one major change in his game plan.

Chencho Gyeltshen will be starting in the first eleven in the away match.

Younten Tshedup