Air India registered a solitary-goal victory against Sporting Clube de Goa in the 9th round match of the I-League at Nehru Stadium, Fatorda here on Sunday.
Midfielder Baldeep Singh scored the all-important goal in the 35th minute of the first half. The second half however remained barren though the Goan side had several scoring opportunities to restore parity.
With this win, Air India have now collected seven points in eight matches, while Sporting, after the completion of their 9th round match, have only 7 points in their kitty.
In the first half, though both the teams almost made equal number of goal scoring moves, it was the Air India team who shot first at the rival goal in the very 4th minute of play when Nna Ezeh Henry put a through pass to EO Junior from the right and the latter let go a grounder which missed the mark narrowly.
For the next fourteen minutes, the exchanges were confined to midfield with some insipid display by both the teams and then suddenly Air India launched another attack. Ezeh Henry sent a perfect pass to Junior who was little slow to connect it home and before he could do any damage, Sporting keeper L Ashok Singh advanced to keep his guard
The hosts then counter attacked but failed to find the mark on three clear occasions. First a Pratesh Shirodkar’s free kick sailed over the bar in the 21st minute and thereafter Freiman Peixote saw his effort kissing the cross bar and come back into play after Pratesh had done all the good work of feeding him well. Just a little earlier to this move, Kalu Ogba fed Obiora Richard who failed to shoot from close when he had a smart chance to score with his left foot.
Sporting continued their attacking game during which time Freiman Peixote sent a nice cross to Kalu Ogba which fizzled out as Ogba shot wide from close.
Air India then counter attacked and came up with a goal through a flag kick, which ultimately proved to be the match winner.
Rahul Beke floated the ball to Baldeep Singh and the latter slammed the ball to the far corner of the rival’s nets.
The second session was also played in the same fashion with Sporting wasting several scoring chances. The hosts brought in the Japanese striker Seiya Sugshita replacing O Richard in the striking line up, but it did not help as they went on missing chances after chances.
Air India almost scored again in the dying minutes of the match when Mickey Fernandes sent a scorching 30 yard free kick which Sporting keeper parried away to safety. Goan side tried their best to find the equaliser and salvage at least a point, but all their efforts failed to find the mark.
In the end, it was the Air India team who carried the day with full three points as they emerged victorious by a narrow 1-0 goal margin.
Speaking at the post match briefings, Sporting Clube de Goa coach Ekendra Singh expressed his disappointment with the performance of his players who missed too many scoring opportunities.
On the other hand, Air India coach Anthony Fernandes said that his team has learnt to take positives from their earlier failures and that the approach of the boys to the game has been quite encouraging in the sense that they play to win the match. [NT]