Spare a thought for Assam Rifles’ (AR) Manichandra Singh. The substitute goalkeeper, who was substituted at half time, leaked in five goals — including an absolute howler — to end his team’s Durand Cup sojourn.
The match — which Air India (AI) won 5-2 — was an open one with neither team holding back in attack. The goal fest started in the 43rd minute, with Assam Rifles’ Buke Jingdung volleying home a wonderfully worked set-piece.
While Air India needed a point to qualify, for Assam Rifles, nothing less than winning by three clear goals would have sufficed. With Jingdung’s strike, the Shillong team looked well on their way to achieving that.
Though the match was always expected to be exciting, no one could have predicted what was going to happen in the second-half. In the very first minute of the second session, Air India equalised with a controversial goal. The Mumbai team refused to stop play after AR defender had come off worse in a clash of heads.
While the AR players stopped — expecting the ball to be kicked out — AI continued and Vijith Shetty tapped in to level scores. AR refused to let it affect them and hit back through Jingdung within two minutes.
However, in the 54th minute, Manichandra committed as big an error as you’re ever likely to see. He couldn’t grasp a looping Benoy Kuruvilla cross and the ball trickled over the line to make it 2-1.
The AR players were shattered by the goal. The Mumbai team capitalised on the drop in confidence of their opponents and pumped in three more goals without reply.
In the day’s earlier kick-off, JCT beat BSF 3-0 in an all-Punjab affair. While JCT move in to Group B, Air India go in to Group A of the quarterfinal league.
JCT beat BSF 3-0
AI beat Assam Rifles 5-2
Mahindra United vs Air India (1300hrs)
MB vs Sporting Club De Goa (1500hrs)