GANGTOK, SIKKIM: Mohammedan Sporting Club edged past Army Red 2-1 in their quaterfinal clash of the 39th Sikkim Governor’s Gold Cup on Friday at the Paljor Stadium in Gangtok.
Sarra Camara (6th) and Tirthankar Sarkar (41st) were on target for the Black Panthers before Jain P. (83rd) pulled a goal back for Army Red.
In the first-half Mohammedan SC were clinical with their passing and ball possession, controlling the tempo of the game to the tune of two goals. In the second-half, Army Red was the aggressor, winning the ball time and time again through aggressive pressure and going on the attack that had them cut the deficit in half. Mohammedan SC technical director Dipendu Biswas, was not too happy with his team’s second-half performance, but was glad nonetheless for the win and the points that come with it.
Mohammedan SC started the match with more purpose as they threw everything they had to impose their will on their opponents during the early exchanges.
And their efforts were soon rewarded in the 6th minute when Camara sent in a thundering header into the net from a low cross by Prosenjit Paul from the right wing.
Conceding so soon rattled Army Red and it took a fair while for the team to settle into the game as Mohammedan SC controlled the action keeping Army Red contained in their half, and making sure goalkeeper Mohamed Shanoos was kept busy.
Army Red, however, didn’t lose focus and on a couple of occasions seemed like they could be on track to equalise. Skipper Jain P. threatened Mohammedan SC’s goal several times throughout the first-half, creating countless chances inside the penalty area, but the Mohammedan SC defenders were quick to the ball and made the clearance any time it came near goal.
Inevitably, failing to convert their chances came back to haunt Army Red as they fell even further behind when debutante Sujoy Dutta latched onto a long ball behind the defence, beat his marker and the keeper to pull back to an arriving Tirthankar who neatly slotted into an empty net in the 41st minute.
Mohammedan SC’s spirits were lifted by the goal and they played out the final moments of the first-half with a lot of energy, which they brought with them when they returned from the break.
Going into the second-half the Black Panthers continued to apply pressure and made some decent runs forward. Army Red, however, are not a side to give up lightly and despite trailing by two goals kept the intensity high, and the pressure on their opponents as they battled to find a way back into the match.
Nonetheless, the lack of finishing in the attacking third and outstanding defending from Mohammedan SC meant Army Red could not find a goal as reward for their early dominance.
However, an unrelenting Army Red side kept the pressure on their opponents and eventually managed to break down the solid Mohammedan SC backline when Jain P. struck a thunderous volley to half the deficit in the 83rd minute.
The match started to become a little tenser as the clock counted down with Army Red showing great determination in their pursuit of an equalizer, while Mohammedan SC remained solid at the back.
Jain P proved his worth on the field, testing Priyant Singh several times throughout the remainder of the match, but impressive judgement from the goalkeeper – and fast counter attacking from Vanlalbiaa Chhangte and substitute Satyam Sharma – left Army Red fighting in vain for the equaliser.
Mohammedan SC technical director Dipendu Biswas have mixed feelings about his team’s overall performance, calling the encounter ‘a game of two halves’.
“To be honest with you, it would have been really unfair if we didn’t win this match because in the first 45 minutes we played wonderful football. I wished to play a better game especially in the second-half, but we were facing a very strong team in Army Red. We know they have some very dangerous players and it was never going to be all one-way traffic so we defended well when we needed to. You also have to keep in mind that we playing our first game in such high altitude and cold weather also did not helped our cause but we are happy to win such a tough game,” he said.
The Black Panthers will face Sikkim Police in the semifinal on Sunday.