Playing in front of a partisan home crowd, Mohammedan Sporting beat Aizawl FC 2-1 on Sunday, October 29, to open their 2023-24 campaign on a winning note. The scoreline did not justify their dominance, Aizawl FC goalkeeper Vanlal Hriatpuia’s heroics ensured his side stayed competitive for the full ninety.
Mohammedan Sporting justified their heavyweights tag for the season in the opening period of the game, dominating possession and creating the bulk of the chances. Both their wingers, F Lalremsanga and Samuel Lalmuanpuia created havoc almost every time they were on the ball.
It was no surprise then when the home side took the lead in the 7th minute, even if the manner of it raised eyebrows. From a short corner played out by Alexis Gomez, Lalmuanpuia curled the ball into the box. Nobody came up to meet it, but its trajectory and power was enough to deceive Vanlal Hriatpuia who completely misjudged his lines to concede the opener.
The goal jolted Aizawl FC into action. The side is famous for its youth academy, and it would’ve been little solace for them that the scorer and tormentor in chief were both formerly in their ranks.
Mohammedan Sporting’s lead lasted for five minutes. From a long free kick on the left, Lalthanmawia delivered the ball into the box. Lalrinzuala had run free of his marker and brought the ball down expertly, albeit into the path of K Lalrinfela, who finished to draw them level.
Soon enough though Mohammedan Sporting were back dominating the ball, Remsanga and Gomez interchanging neat passes and constantly creating inroads in the final third. The final ball or the finish was always lacking. Till it wasn’t.
In their attempts to play out from the back, Aizawl erred and Wahengbam Luwang released Gomez into the box. The Argentine restored the home side’s lead.
Through the second half Mohammedan Sporting ensured their levels didn’t drop, controlling the possession and the play in midfield. Aizawl were feeding on scraps as Gomez, Remsanga and Mirjalol Kasimov turned the screws on tight.
It took the brilliance of Hriatpuia in goal to ensure Aizawl FC didn’t concede more. The keeper made up for his early error to make save after save in a period of play where Mohammedan Sporting did everything but bulge the net.
Hriatpuia’s two standout saves came from two close-range efforts. The first, created from a Remsanga dribble and cutback left Prince Agyemang with the simplest of tap-ins. The forward went for power from point-blank range and somehow Hriatpuia palmed it away. A few minutes later he saved from David Lalhlansanga’s long ranger and then blocked a header from the resultant corner.
In the final minute of time, Aizawl FC came close to an equaliser, a melee from a corner seeing the headed ball safely bounce off the upright. And then, in the final minute of injury time, Gomez had a chance to wrap it all up, running free one-on-one with only Hriatpuia to beat. The goalkeeper saved yet again. Mohammedan Sporting gratefully took the three points.