KOLKATA: Mohammedan Sporting Club made a dream return to the Hero I-League when they beat debutants Sudeva Delhi FC 1-0 in the opening match of the new season on Saturday at Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan.
Goal from debutant Faisal Ali (58′) was enough to see off a spirited challenge from Sudeva who tested the Black Panthers at times, especially in the second-half.
As expected Mohammedan SC have tried to assert their dominance from the outset and the local side came close to opening the scoring in spectacular fashion following a slick sweeping move at the end of which Suraj Rawat was denied by the Sudeva custodian Rakshit Dagar in the 9th minute.
Sudeva were impressive and well organised in the back restricting the Black Panthers speculative long range efforts, while looking dangerous on the counter courtesy of the lively Kean Lewis.
Rakshit showed impressive aerial presence and the entire Sudeva defense looked comfortable in absorbing Mohammedan SC’s attacking pressure, while looking to catch their opponents off-guard on the counter.
Mohammedan SC were dealt with a blow as Asheer Akhtar had to be substituted late in the first half with an injury blow and Gurtej Singh took his place. The first stanza ended with scores locked goalless.
Following the pause for half-time Mohammedan SC came straight out of the blocks controlling the ball, winning set pieces and keeping Sudeva pinned into their own back third.
The constant attacking by Mohammedan SC eventually wore down the Sudeva defence to the point where a heavy touch allowed Faisal to steal possession and slot the ball past Rakshit to give his side well deserved lead in the 58th minute.
The setback served to awaken Sudeva from their slumber and they threw players forward with abandon, in search of an equalizer. The Delhi-outfit fought hard to not only keep themselves in the match but to try and find a goal which would help them secure at least a deserved point.
Despite some good build-up play and probing runs, the Sudeva couldn’t get behind the well organised Mohammedan SC defence and the particularly impressive Eze Kingsley at the centre of it.
Although Sudeva remained determined to get back into the game, unfortunately the front line continued to fire off-target while Mohammedan SC started to establish a comfortable rhythm whenever they found themselves in possession making it tough for their opponents to impose their game.
Meanwhile, Mohammedan SC looked dangerous on the counter with Raphael Odovin missing a golden chance to double his side’s advantage, however, at the end it didn’t matter as the Faisal’s lone goal proved to be enough to decide the thrilling encounter.