Tiddim Road Athletic Union FC scored a last-gasp goal to beat All India Football Federation’s developmental side Indian Arrows 1-0 at the Khuman Lumpak Stadium in Imphal on Sunday.
Deepak Devrani scored the all-important goal in the 89th minute to give TRAU the crucial three points.
The win comes at a very important time for TRAU, who now have some breathing space in their quest for I-League survival. With 22 points from 17 matches, they are now at fourth in the table.
In the TRAU line-up, Jedidi Haokip started in goal, marking his first appearance this season. Robinson Singh started in the four-man midfield, as did Loken Meitei, who started out wide.
Arrows head coach Shanmugam Venkatesh reinstated Bikash Yumnam and RV Hormipam to his backline, while also opting for Telem Suranjit Singh in the middle.
The first half was a cagey affair with the majority of the game unfurling in the midfield. Either side struggled for penetration but towards the business end of the first half, the game went up a gear.
TRAU came close to scoring in the 37th minute through Joseph Mayowa’s delicate cross, which crept over Samik Mitra in the Arrows goal and came off the inside of the woodwork.
Indian Arrows responded with a counter of their own five minutes later. The ball fell to Givson Singh, who made some space for himself with a couple of neat touches before firing across goal. His shot took a deflection which left Haokip scrambling across goal, but to his relief saw it go across for a corner.
The second half resumed with the same cautious approach from either side. Arrows gaffer Venkatesh introduced his leading goal-scorer Vikram Partap Singh around the hour mark, hoping for him to make a super-sub impact.
Vikram’s introduction seemed to have given the visitors the sudden burst in pace going forward.
In the 77th minute, the Arrows were on the counter again as Nikhil Raj lobbed the ball into the path of Vikram, who ran the length of the TRAU half before driving a low-cross across goal. Nikhil, who had complemented Vikram’s run, mistimed his shot as the cross went begging.
The Arrows had another shot at goal in the 85th minute. Vikram was at the epicentre again, playing a delightful through ball to the path of Harmanpreet Singh, but Haokip came off his line to deny him. The rebound fell to Nikhil Raj, but Haokip made another good save to deny on the follow-up.
TRAU introduced Romanian forward Petru Leuca, which may have sparked the shift in the tides.
In the 89th minute, the hosts pushed men forward. Tanmoy Ghosh made good work of the ball and having found some space, dinked one into the box which was headed clear by Akash Mishra.
The ball fell to Deepak Devrani, who went for the spectacular with a scissor kick and to everyone’s disbelief, netted one of the best goals of this I-League season which proved to the match-winner for the Imphal outfit.
TRAU will now travel to Srinagar to challenge Real Kashmir FC on March 14, while Indian Arrows will face Gokulam Kerala at their backyard a day later.
Gokulam Kerala beat Churchill Brothers in thriller
Henry Kisekka scored in the last minute as Gokulam Kerala FC beat Churchill Brothers 2-1 in a thrilling match of the I-League in Margao on Sunday.
Gokulam Kerala’s victory gave a serious jolt to the Red Machines’ hopes of finishing in second place on the points table.
With the win, Gokulam now have 22 points from 15 games – the same as TRAU FC and Real Kashmir FC, overtaking Churchill Brothers in the process, who have 20 points to their kitty.
Churchill Brothers lined up a heavy midfield as they opted for a 3-5-2 formation. Gokulam Kerala, on the other hand, kept five in the defence in a 5-3-2 set-up.
A lot was expected from the captains of both the sides – Churchill’s Willis Plaza and Marcus Joseph – as they also happened to be highest scorers for their respective teams.
Churchill Brothers began the game on a positive note and were pressing high up the field. That paid off as it drew the first mistake out of the Gokulam defence in the 7th minute as the ball fell to Plaza, whose shot went across the face of the goal.
The high pressing game, though, did leave gaps in the defence and it was utilised by the Gokulam Kerala skipper in the 31st minute.
He made a run from the left flank into the box and with an inch-perfect ball, found his attacking partner Nathaniel Jude Garcia, who skilfully placed the ball into the back of the net from close range. With Gokulam Kerala leading 1-0, Churchill went on the attack and but were not able to find the final ball for the equaliser.
Just before the end of the half, Plaza was fouled right at the edge of the Gokulam Kerala box and the resultant free-kick was taken by Lalkhawpuimawia, who drew a diving save from the away side’s keeper.
When play resumed, the Red Machines were mounting attack after attack. However, the only thing standing between them and the equaliser was the Gokulam Kerala keeper CK Ubaid.
First, it was a shot by Lalkhawpuimawia followed by efforts from Dawda Ceesay and Plaza which were wonderfully saved by Ubaid.
Against the run of play in the 70th minute, Gokulam Kerala got a free-kick and Marcus Joseph almost scored the second for the visitors as his left-footed set-piece went whistling past the far post.
When all seemed bleak, luck finally shined upon Churchill Brothers when a simple catch from a free-kick was misjudged by Ubaid in the Gokulam goal and Lalkhawpuimawia headed it home for an equaliser in the 73rd minute.
Both sides went for the kill and just as the match seemed to be ending on level pegging, the Red Machines conceded yet again.
It was Marcus Joseph with a cross from the left flank this time around as well, which found Kisekka at a point-blank distance from goal and he tapped the ball home for Gokulam Kerala’s second goal.