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Struggling Bhutia grounds IAF

Maybe, Bhaichung Bhutia’s got some of that zing left in him after all. Turning out for his club, United Sikkim Football Club, for the last 10 minutes of their opening Durand Cup tie against Indian Air Force (IAF), provided an assist but scored a late goal to help his team coast to a 3-0 victory at the Ambedkar Stadium on Friday. Tomojit Basu reports.

sports Updated: Oct 07, 2011 23:21 IST
Tomojit Basu

Maybe, Bhaichung Bhutia’s got some of that zing left in him after all. Turning out for his club, United Sikkim Football Club (USFC), for the last 10 minutes of their opening Durand Cup tie against Indian Air Force (IAF), the former India captain not only provided an assist but scored a late goal to help his team coast to a 3-0 victory at the Ambedkar Stadium on Friday.

The match, though, was a lacklustre affair and neither side really created chances nor enthused the miniscule audience with any coherent style of play, till John Babatunde netted for USFC seconds before the halfway breather. After having missed an early sitter in a one-on-one situation with IAF custodian MK Jena, the Nigerian latched on to Govin Singh’s long clearance and beat MC Paneru in the air to head past a hapless advancing Jena.

It was Sushil Singh’s 78th-minute introduction in place of Babatunde that helped USFC step up the tempo. While Thoi Singh and captain Quinton Jacobs had marshalled the USFC midfield, it was Sushil who took full advantage of Jacobs’ excellent distributive abilities from the left flank. Bhutia's cameo two minutes later after supplanting Renedy Singh proved to be instrumental despite the Sikkimese sniper’s obvious lack of fitness.

“I’m 30 per cent fit and I can last just 15 minutes or so but I'm getting better,” Bhutia later said.

Sushil's runs caused problems for IAF right-back GS Sandhu and he combined well with Bhutia in the 88th minute to bury the opposition’s hopes. Bhutia flicked the ball in from the edge of the penalty area for Sushil to pick up and feint past RS Raj to make it 2-0.

Bhutia claimed one for himself in extra-time with a well-placed header over Jena after the keeper had parried Daniel Bidemi's long-range effort.

Salgaocar mince BSF
The scoreline may have read just 1-0 in Salgaocar’s favour but it was one of those days when luck chose to work against Karim Bencherifa’s recently-crowned Federation Cup champions side. Salgaocar were denied by the posts against Border Security Force on at least six occasions but the I-League champions managed to avert an upset through a 75th-minute thundering out-stepped Edeh Chidi free-kick from 22-yards.

Salgaocar’s 3-4-3 ran circles around the seven-time Durand champions with Japanese playmaker Ryuji Sueoka and Chidi repeatedly threatening the BSF custodian.