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Air India zoom off the blocks

Friday turned out to be not just good but a great one for Air India, who launched their Durand Cup campaign with a 3-0 thrashing of Army XI, in the first quarterfinal league match of the 122nd edition, reports Abhishek Hore.

sports Updated: Sep 11, 2009 22:59 IST
Abhishek Hore

Friday turned out to be not just good but a great one for Air India, who launched their Durand Cup campaign with a 3-0 thrashing of Army XI, in the first quarterfinal league match of the 122nd edition.

Fresh from their semifinal appearance in the IFA Shield, the airmen went ahead when Ravinder Singh converted from the spot in the 22nd minute.

Dada Habeel, who looked one of the most impressive players at the Ambedkar Stadium, created one for N D Opara from the left flank, but Army XI defender K. Poukillung was guilty of bringing the Nigerian down inside the box. Singh's spot-kick gave Robi Kanta Singh absolutely no chance.

Leading by a goal and enjoying possession, Air India stepped up the tempo and that resulted in another goal, six minutes from the opener. This time, nobody could stop Opara as he cleanly tapped the ball in after being fed by Habeel.

Amidst Air India's domination, there were the occasional half-hearted attacks by Army, but those hardly mattered. Air India's Arnav Das Sharma was hardly tested under the bar and when he was, he pulled off a pretty decent save to ensure that his side's lead remained intact on a slippery turf.

After easy outings in the qualifiers, Army got a taste of playing against an established side when Ravinder again converted from the spot. This time, Poukillung brought Praneel Mendon down.

That Army looked rusty for a major part of the match worked in Air India's favour. S Raleng, who top-scored in the 2008 Santosh Trophy, too hardly looked threatening.