Kenkre FC, Mumbai, began their I-League 2022-23 campaign in an emphatic manner, winning 2-1 against hosts Sudeva Delhi FC at the Chhatrasal Stadium in Delhi on Monday.
After the teams were locked 1-1 at the half time, Azfar Noorani scored for the winners in the 61st minute to clinch the issue in favour of Kenkre FC in the maiden I-League match at the Chhatrasal Stadium under lights.
The match began with the Mumbai outfit making all efforts to find their attackers through long balls, while Sudeva FC tried to play with quick passes. However, neither team could make any tangible inroad in the rival area. The first real chance got into Sudeva’s way when their Nigerian forward Odili Felix Chidi saw his shot saved by the Kenkre goalkeeper Padam Chettri in the 8th minute. However, four minutes later, Kenkre FC drew the first blood as the defender Ahmed Faiz Khan scored following a corner kick.
The home side grew into the game after conceding the goal and started dictating terms in the midfield. In the 15th minute, a corner kick taken by Sudeva’s 18-year-old Seilenthang Lotjem was defended poorly by the Kenkre defence. Kynsailang Khongsit’s rather uncertain clearance found Sudeva’s captain Nishchal Chandan in a good position, but his powerful shot hit the post.
Though Sudeva FC had an edge in the first half, Kenkre’s Aravindraj Rajan and Noorani managed to keep the rival defence on their toes with some good runs. At the half-hour mark, Kiran Pandhare had a nervy moment when he lost the ball to Felix Chidi but was relieved to find Chidi shot straight to goalkeeper Chettri.
Sudeva’s Japanese recruit, Kosuke Uchida played a pivotal role in the midfield for the hosts as he dropped deep on several occasions to initiate effective moves through the wings. During the add-on times of the first half, young Sudeva winger R Lawmnasangzuala found Basit Ahmed Bhat with a fine cross and Basit’s perfect header found the equaliser for the home side.
The second half began at a slow pace with both teams trying to find their rhythm back. Basit Ahmed remained active on the left with some fine moves with good dribbling. Once he put in a wonderful cross, finding Tetsuaki Misawa who couldn’t keep his shot down. Kenkre regained their lead at the hour mark as Rajan provided a great through ball to Noorani, who struck powerfully to find the target.
Kenkre almost scored the third goal when Noorani put in a cross from the left flank for Kiran Pandhare, who came up with a good header but his attempt was saved by the Sudeva Delhi custodian Ashish Sibi. Sudeva stepped up their attacks in the final quarter. Substitute Francis Uchenna Nwankwo put in multiple crosses into the opponents’ box but his teammates failed to capitalise on them. The goodly crowd, who came to Chhatrasal Stadium to witness the return of I-League to Delhi, cheered the home side throughout the match and constantly motivated the boys.
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