A winter Wednesday evening could not have got hotter at Ambedkar Stadium as Sreenidi Deccan FC thought they had salvaged a point through David Castaneda’s tenth goal in this I-League season in the dying moments of the match, only to see it disallowed for offside. A few minutes of furious protest notwithstanding, the match ended 1-0 for Rajasthan United FC.
It was fitting end to a tie that sometimes saw end-to-end action and was settled by a lucky strike from Rajasthan’s Kyrgyz defender Aidar Mambetaliev. He was correctly declared the Hero of the Match having stood like a rock in defence as well.
The game was a tale of two halves – the first owned by the home team and the second mostly by the Deccan Warriors. But Pushpender Kundu’s men ended up on the winning side because they bottled top-scorer Castaneda right from the word go and forced Sreenidi’s fulcrum Faysal Shayesteh to drop deep. The Afghan’s frustration resulted in a booking early in the second half. It is telling that Castaneda could make only two attempts at goal in the entire match – one of which is the disallowed goal in the 95th minute.
The undisputed leader of Rajasthan’s attack on the day was their Kyrgyz midfielder Atai Dzhumashev, who along with William Pauliankhum, owned the left side of the field. It was Dzhumashev’s solo run from the left that created the first chance of the match in the ninth minute. He placed a perfect centre for new signee Leonce Dodoz, who could not manage a proper touch in the entire match. The ball fell to Remsanga but the winger could not put it through the legs of Sreenidi goalkeeper CK Ubaid. Dzhumashev kept chugging away, his next cross falling to Dodoz, who missed the chance again. This time from a goalmouth melee, the ball bounced to an unmarked Lalliansanga at the top of the box. He unleashed a powerful right-footer which Ubaid saved, diving to his left.
Despite creating chance after chance, Rajasthan had to wait till the 43rd minute for the goal. The attack, predictably, arrived from the left. This time though, the crosser was Pauliankhum. Mambetaliev’s flicked header from the near post somehow evaded both Ubaid and his defenders to bulge the net.
Sreenidi came back with vigour anew in the second half and obtained three back-to-back corners in the 49th minute, all to no avail. Arijit Bagui’s terrific throw-in from the right in the 50th minute did find Rosenberg Gabriel’s body at the goalmouth, but neither could he control it, nor Asheer Akhtar accept the rebound. The defender’s left-footer flew well over the crossbar.
Within five minutes, the pressure started telling. Rajasthan defender Melroy Assisi, was the first to falter, his unnecessary foul on the edge of the box earning Sreenidi free-kick. Faysal did his best this time with a superb dipping left-footer but Rafique Ali Sardar palmed it over the crossbar.
Rajasthan came very close to making it 2-0 in stoppage time when Beitia’s free-kick found Dzhumashev’s head right in front of the goal but Ubaid made an incredible save from point blank range.
With this win, the hosts moved into fourth position on the table with 18 points.