Durand Cup: Army Green sneaks into semis

With this win, the Army side finished with eight points from five games, one more than Sporting Clube de Goa which paid the price for a weak start in the competition despite registering two huge wins later on.

Dempo SC (blue) beat Indian Air Force 1-0 in an inconsequential match with both teams already knocked out.   -  Special Arrangement

Captain PC Lallawmkina scored the only goal of the match to not only help Army Green finish its Pool A engagements with a win against Gangtok Himalayan but also sneak into the semifinals of the 128th Durand Cup football tournament here on Wednesday by finishing second in the group.

With this win, the Army side finished with eight points from five games, one more than Sporting Clube de Goa which paid the price for a weak start in the competition despite registering two huge wins later on. Interestingly, Lallawmkina had scored both goals in Army's 2-1 victory against Sporting, a result that derailed Sporting's campaign in the competition. Gangtok remained on six points.

With the match being a virtual knockout – a draw would have meant both sides being eliminated – Army Green stepped up the pressure from the beginning and created chances from the wings. One of those paid off when Linesh PV's pass from the left saw Lallawmkina wrong-foot the Gangtok goalkeeper and score in in the eighth minute.

The Army side tried to increase the lead but too often, Lallawmkina was left unsupported upfront and had to lose the ball or kick it away in frustration. He also created several chances, running hard to take possession, but found no one to provide the finishing touch in front of the goal.

Post break, the Gangtok boys threw everything they had into the attack and kept coming forward in waves, only to be thwarted by a stubborn and desperate Army defence. In fact, the match was restricted to the Army section for most of the second half, including half a dozen corner kicks, but some good saves from goalkeeper B. Mthakuri and the alert defence kept the opposition at bay.

Failing to break past, the Gangtok side tried to switch strategy and Rishabh Sharma, Norbu Lepcha and others all took long-range shots at the net, sometimes from as far away as the half line, but hit over and wide.

At the Harbaksh Stadium, Neroca FC sealed its semifinal spot with a 2-2 draw against Army Red in Pool B. Neroca is now level on points with table-topper Aizawl FC though the latter has a game in hand. Army, which finished its league campaign with six points, had to win to stay in contention but failed to do so.

The other Pool B match saw Dempo SC beat Indian Air Force 1-0 in an inconsequential match with both teams already knocked out. Germanpreet Singh scored the winner for Dempo.



Results

Pool A: Army Green 1 (PC Lallawmkina) bt Gangtok Himalayan 0;

Pool B: Neroca FC 2 (Sushil Kumar Singh, Ronald Singh) drew with Army Red 2 (Francis Zonunthanga, Suresh Meitei); Dempo SC 1 (Germanpreet Singh) bt IAF 0.

  Dugout videos