Tense semifinals await in AIFF U-18 Youth League

The final leg of the AIFF U-18 youth league is set to commence at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Shillong on Thursday.

File image of East Bengal's U-18 squad   -  www.eastbengalfootballclub.com

The final leg of the AIFF U-18 youth league is set to commence at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Shillong on Thursday.

SAI Kolkata and Kerala Blasters will contest in the first semifinal in what promises to be a high-octane thriller.

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SAI Kolkata would consider itself extremely lucky to be in the semifinals as it was awarded three goals and three points against Sudeva FC despite the game ending in a goalless draw. Sudeva was found guilty of fielding an ineligible player which saw the Kolkata side go through on goal difference from Group A.

The Blasters finished on top of its group despite rocky performances and having to sweat it out until the end of its third match.

Goals have dried up for SAI in the final round group stages with Rohit Tigga failing to conjure up his goal-scoring touch. It's defensive pairing of skipper Kiranmay Mandi and no-nonsense centre-back Madan Mandi have been key to its progress.

On the other hand, Kerala’s run to the semifinals has looked a lot like SAI Kolkata’s, rarely pretty, occasionally frustrating, but eventually effective.

The Blasters have had problems defensively in this tournament and against SAI, they are likely to be tested at the back.

The clash might depend on individual mistakes rather than a beautiful build-up attack. Both teams find it hard in front of goal, scoring relatively few between them during the group stage.

The kick-off is scheduled for 3 pm.

Title favourites set for clash

Title favourites East Bengal and Shillong Lajong FC are slated for a 7 pm kick-off in the second semifinal.

This clash promises to be an entertaining affair as both sides play an attacking brand of football and will be full of confidence after posting some impressive results during the group stage.

With three wins on the trot, Lajong is the only team to progress with the full nine available points compared to their opponent East Bengal which won all but one game, namely, a goalless draw against FC Pune City in its final Group B game.

East Bengal, which is yet to concede a goal, went through tougher tests against SAI Trivandrum, Minerva Punjab FC and FC Pune City.

Skipper Manoj Mohammad has been an immovable object at the heart of the East Bengal defence but he will have his hands full in dealing with the presence of Donboklang Lyngdoh. That battle will be a key to the outcome, as will Lalcchanhima’s with Lajong’s Kynsailang Khongsit and Naoroibam Romen Singh, who has had an equally impressive tournament.

Both teams will look to cancel each other out in the midfield area with a high-tempo clash in store at the JLN Stadium.

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