Sreenidi Deccan FC extended their lead atop the I-League points table with a solitary-goal victory over Mumbai Kenkre FC at the Deccan Arena on Saturday, January 7.
The scoreline says 1-0 but does not reflect the home team’s complete dominance over the midfield, led by Afghan recruit Faysal Shayesteh, who scored the only goal and picked up the Hero of the Match award. The Deccan Warriors had 15 shots on goal, compared to just four by their opponents, and enjoyed 66 percent possession.
Not just the midfield, even the wings were ruled by Sreenidi Deccan FC’s Abdul Salam and Rosenberg Gabriel. In fact, the move for the goal in the 19th minute was started by Salam who outran the Mumbai Kenkre FC players from the right to lay it to captain David Castaneda, who had his back to the visitors’ goal. He did not try to turn, passing it to an advancing Faysal instead. The Afghan put it into the net with a precise left-footer.
Castaneda, the highest scorer in the league so far with nine goals, could have scored his tenth in the sixth minute of the match when Faisal sent a superb cross from the right across the goal. The Colombian just had to tap in but could not make it. The irresistible Faysal created a similar chance for Ramhlunchhunga in the very next minute but even he could not convert it. Kenkre FC goalkeeper Padam Chettri had a very busy first half and but for him, the match could have been over in the first 45 minutes itself.
Mumbai Kenkre FC looked slightly more organised in defence in the second half but not in attacking third. Even then Rosenberg came close to snatching the ball away from Chettri’s hands in the 66th minute due to miscommunication among the Kenkre FC defenders. However, they combined well three minutes later to deny substitute Lalromawia. It was yet another Salam-Castaneda effort finding Faysal deep into Kenkre FC box. He headed it back to Lalromawia who was standing unmarked at the face of the goal but could not put it into the net as there were three men including the goalkeeper in his way.
While Mumbai Kenkre FC coach Akhil Kothari has a lot to worry about, the only thing that could make Sreenidi coach Carlos Vaz Pinto a bit uncomfortable is the occasional lapses by his central defenders. The Mumbaikars almost equalised in the dying moments of the match as a result of one such mistake. Aman Gaikwad got a loose ball out of nowhere on the edge of Sreenidi box because Awal Mohammed and Asraf Ali Mondal ran into each other. With RoundGlass Punjab FC breathing down their neck, wasting two points because of that momentary lapse would have been a matter of great regret.