NEW DELHI: With a 3-1 victory over Ambernath United Atlanta on Friday, May 26, 2023, Delhi FC were crowned the 2022-23 Hero 2nd Division champions and secured promotion to next season’s Hero I-League.
Last Sunday, Shillong Lajong FC beat FC Bengaluru United to become the first team to be promoted this season. At the end of the Final Round, Delhi FC finished level on seven points with Shillong Lajong FC but won the Hero 2nd Division title on goal difference since the match between them ended in a goalless draw.
Ambernath United Atlanta, playing in their debut Hero 2nd Division season, only needed a point at the Minerva Academy Ground in Chandigarh to win the title, but a brace from Bali Gagandeep and an audacious strike from Vanlalhriatzuala scripted a memorable afternoon for Delhi FC. The capital side had previously made it to the Hero I-League Qualifiers Final Round in 2021 but finished third and missed out on the promotion. However, there was redemption and scenes of pure joy when Delhi FC finally got the job done on Friday and booked their berth in the Hero I-League for the first time ever.
Playing at home in a do-or-die clash, Delhi FC had their foot on the throttle from the get-go. After an opening half-an-hour of sustained pressure, they opened the scoring in the 34th minute with a fine team goal. Skipper Balwant Singh released Fahad Temuri in acres of space down the left wing, and the youngster charged forward before squaring the ball into the box for Bali Gagandeep to side-foot it home at full stretch.
However, Ambernath United Atlanta, who barely threatened in the first half, came out strong after the break and equalised in the 48th minute with a move similar to the Delhi goal. In the visitors’ case, it was Johnson Joseph Mathews who delivered a low cross into the middle from the left, and captain Himanshu Patil stuck his foot out to guide the ball into the net for 1-1.
But it wasn’t to be the Mumbai side’s day, as parity only lasted eight minutes. Gagandeep struck again for Delhi, rising highest in the six-yard box to head in Bhupinder Singh’s brilliant delivery from the corner. Although Steven Dias’ Ambernath United Atlanta only needed a goal to take pole position again and spoil the hosts’ party, they just couldn’t find any inspiration in the final third.
Eventually, two minutes from time, Vanlalhriatzuala sealed the deal for Delhi FC with a sensational 35-yard strike, which curled right into the top corner. The 22-year-old had attempted a similar shot in the first half which came off the crossbar, but there was no denying him this time. A top-notch goal to secure the top spot in the table for Delhi FC.
The other Hero 2nd Division match between hosts FC Bengaluru United and United SC was a dead rubber, the former ran out 1-0 winners. Irfan Yadwad scored the only goal, thus taking his season’s tally to 13 goals to finish as the league’s top scorer.
Ambernath United Atlanta and FC Bengaluru United finished in the third and fourth spot respectively with six points each. United SC were bottom of the table with three points.