AIFF MEDIA TEAM
Kenkre FC 1 (84’ Pravitto Raju)
Madan Maharaj FC 0
BENGALURU: Kenkre FC began the final round of their Hero I-League Qualifiers campaign with a hard fought 1-0 victory over Madan Maharaj FC here at the Bangalore Football Stadium. The solitary goal of the game was scored close to the full time whistle by Kenkre FC midfielder Pravitto Raju. This loss put an early jolt in the Madhya Pradesh side’s bid to qualify for the Hero I-League 2021-22.
Kenkre FC made a vibrant start to proceedings and could have gone ahead in the 7th minute through right full back Varun Mathur. The Akhil Kothari – coached side used their intricate passing and off the ball movement to create an opening down the left wing with striker Ranjeet Singh leading the charge. Ranjeet got the better of the opposing full back and squared a cross for Varun Mathur but the chance was wasted.
In the early stages of the match, both teams established contrary patterns of play, with Madan Maharaj FC looking to release their forward players with quick and long balls over the top, while Kenkre FC employed a style which involved them building a tempo and moving up the pitch as a team by playing short passes.
In the 30th minute, veteran midfielder and MMFC skipper Mehtab Hossain spotted Kenkre goalkeeper Tenzin Samdup off his goal line and made an audacious attempt to lob the keeper from over 45 yards but could not find the target.
In the 33rd minute, Azfar Noorani carried the ball down the left wing and produced another low cross aimed for the edge of the six yard box which was met by the onrushing Aravind Rajan but he missed his mark by a whisker.
As the game was locked at a stalemate, Kenkre boys came out with renewed vigour after the restart.
Azfar Noorani was poised to tap the ball home, but was denied by a heroic last ditch tackle by Abhishek Das.
In the 61st minute, MMFC nearly capitalised on a loose back pass by Suraj Singh Negi, as Biren Rai chased the ball and nearly got his foot to it to take it away from the keeper and be through on goal, but the danger was expertly cleared by goalkeeper Tenzin Samdup.
Tenzin stood up for his team and maintained his composure once again in the 78th minute when Biren Rai ran through on goal with only the goalkeeper to beat. As Biren tried to round the goalkeeper, Tenzin stood tall on his feet and thwarted the MMFC striker, who rued missing this gilt edged chance to send his team in front.
MMFC were left to regret their missed opportunities in the 84th minute as Kenkre FC finally broke the deadlock through Pravitto Raju.
Kenkre kept knocking on the door and issued warning signs throughout the match with their wing play, which finally yielded results for them. After combining effectively and producing a high cross from the right wing, Pravitto outjumped MMFC centre back Loveday and sent a looping header over goalkeeper Shayan Roy, who was caught in no man’s land. The goal sparked wild celebrations for the team from Maharashtra, who could smell victory so close to full time.
MMFC upped the ante and tried to claw back into the match through a late equaliser but were again denied clear goal scoring chances by adept defending from the Kenkre FC defensive unit. William Twala stood over a 91st minute free kick from a central position with a chance to grab the headlines with an equaliser. Twala cleared the wall with his free kick, but could not keep his effort on target.
Kenkre FC will look to build on the momentum from this result as they go top of the provisional standings in the final round of the Hero I-League Qualifiers.
Delhi FC 0
Rajasthan United FC 1 (90+1’ Aman Thapa)
BENGALURU: Rajasthan United left it late in their encounter against Delhi FC to secure a narrow 1-0 victory over the tournament favourites in the second match of the day at the Bangalore Football Stadium. Rajasthan United FC forced the issue late on in the match as Delhi FC succumbed to the mounting pressure by conceding in added time of the second half through an own goal from defender Karandeep Singh. The win sends Rajasthan United level on points with Kenkre FC, who also won their match against Madan Maharaj FC earlier in the day.
Rajasthan United and Delhi FC stepped out onto the field as two like-minded teams competing against each other at a breakneck pace, with both sides employing frenetic pressing to win the ball back early. The first big chance fell the way of the team from Rajasthan, who broke quickly by playing a long ball over the top for their captain Akeem Abioye, who got the ball under his control and released a quick shot with his favoured left foot that flashed narrowly wide of the goal.
The game was then unfortunately halted for a short spell as Delhi FC goalkeeper James Kithan had to be substituted due to an injury. After receiving treatment for an injured quadriceps muscle in the opening ten minutes, James tried to carry on but could not continue much longer as he had to be substituted off the field for his replacement Suraj Mallick.
In a tightly contested affair, goal scoring chances were few and far between as both teams duelled valiantly in midfield to deny their opponents any space. In the 40th minute, Delhi FC received a free kick roughly 25 yards from goal and would have fancied their chances with captain Anwar Ali, who has already scored two goals from a dead ball situation in the Hero I-League Qualifiers 2021. However, Anwar was unable to produce the goods on this occasion as his low drive was blocked by the RUFC wall.
On the following play, RUFC again threatened the Delhi FC goal with a fast counter attack. Akeem Abioye turned provider this time around, releasing striker Sukhjit Singh on goal. Sukhjit did well to glide past the duo of Yumnam Raju and Karandeep Singh to create space for himself to take a shot on goal, which was directed straight towards the goalkeeper as Suraj Mallick made a comfortable save.
As both teams went into the halftime break on level terms, head coaches Vikrant Sharma and Surinder Singh would have appealed to their respective teams to take the initiative to produce more goal attempts in the second period. Rajasthan United were the first team to threaten in the second half from a set piece situation, as Aman Thapa whipped in a fantastic corner which was headed just over the goal from point-blank range by Inder Mohan Singh.
In the 59th minute, Himanshu Jangra recorded Delhi FC’s first shot on target in the second half after quick interplay with Willis Plaza. Jangra produced a left footed effort that landed on target, but did not trouble RUFC goalkeeper Vishal Joon, who saved comfortably. There was action on the opposite end in the 70th minute as Aman Thapa got the better of Delhi FC defender Samuel Shadap before running clean through on goal from the inside-left channel. As he tried to slide the ball past the charging goalkeeper, Suraj Mallick produced a fine save to deny Thapa. Aman Thapa once again appeared as RUFC’s most potent attacking outlet as the winger came close to scoring time and time again.
Delhi FC nearly had a fortunate break in the 75th when a regulation cross from winger Nikhil Mali took a wicked deflection off RUFC defender Floyd John and cannoned onto the frame of the goal before bouncing back into play. It was a matter of inches that denied Delhi FC the opening goal of the game from a huge stroke of luck.
As the game neared the full time whistle, heavy rain came lashing down onto the Bangalore Football Stadium and made it difficult for players to adapt to the circumstances. The breakthrough came from one such instance in the 91st minute of the game as Aman Thapa prepared to deliver a corner from the left flank. His cross was met at the near post by Delhi FC defender Samuel Shadap, who swiped at the ball to clear it away but mishit his clearance to direct the ball towards his own goal, leaving goalkeeper Suraj Mallick no chance.
As RUFC took the lead with little time to spare, Delhi FC stared down at their first defeat of the Hero I-League Qualifiers 2021. The full time whistle sparked jubilant celebrations on the RUFC touchline, leaving Delhi FC with their task cut out to turn this situation around in their remaining two Final Round matches.