Aizawl FC overcame a spirited young Indian Arrows to register their first win of the I-League season at the Tilak Maidan in Goa on Monday.
The visitors from Mizoram rode on strikes from William Lalnunfela and Joe Zoherliana to snatch a dramatic victory in the stoppage time after Vikram Partap Singh had equalised for the hosts in the 81st minute.
Arrows head coach Shanmugam Venkatesh decided to field an unchanged starting eleven from his side that lost 0-1 at home to Gokulam Kerala in their season opener. Stanley Rozario, on the other hand, fielded a conventional 4-4-2 having made four changes from the side that lost to northeast rivals Neroca. Lalemruata started in goal ahead of Lalawmpuia, while new signing and Malian midfield Amadou Alou Sisokko also made the starting XI.
Looking for their first win, both sides kicked off the proceedings with an intent to press hard. The young Arrows, in the initial minutes, exhibited neat passes and structured movement. Aizawl, on the other hand, displayed fine defensive solidarity, with Juuko Kassaga being a towering figure throughout the game, constantly frustrating the likes of Vikram and Harmanpreet.
In the 31st minute, a beautifully lobbed pass by Rochharzela was chested down by Abdoulaye Kanoute with exquisite control and the Malian forward had a crack on goal but was denied in spectacular fashion by Samik Mitra.
Minutes before the break, a miscued headed clearance by Ajin Tom fell to the feet of Kanoute but he squandered the golden opportunity to put Aizawl ahead, as his effort went wide off the mark.
In the second half, the Arrows nearly found an opening when Vikram was seemingly brought down by Kassaga inside the box, but referee Rosario Fernandes waved away all appeals for a penalty.
However, it was Aizawl who took the lead in the 64th minute. In an attempt to clear a cross from Isak Vanlalruatfela, Saurabh Meher deflected the delivery to the path of William Lalnunfela, and the substitute made no mistake tapping it in.
Venkatesh’s side displayed great character and started dictating the tempo of the game. They were duly rewarded when a beautifully plotted run by Vikram led to him being through on goal and he made no mistake in earning a well-deserved equaliser for the Arrows.
However, all of Indian Arrows’ good work was undone. With four minutes added on, Aizawl continued to overload the final third. Lalnunfela broke through on the right inside the Arrows’ box and delivered a measured cross which was met by a leaping Joe Zoherliana with his head, to seal a dramatic 2-1 win for Stanley Rozario’s side.
With the victory, Aizawl move to third place in the I-League table with four points while Indian Arrows remain at the bottom with two losses from as many games. Arrows goalkeeper Samik Mitra was adjudged to be the Hero of the Match for his calm and confident display under the woodwork.
Indian Arrows will now travel to Punjab to face former champions Punjab FC on December 16, 2019. Aizawl FC will host reigning champions Chennai City FC one day later in what will be the first-ever I-league match played under floodlights in Aizawl.