AI push HASC to the corner

Praise brace, Velho goal spur Air India; Bangalore outfit faces relegation threat

In desperate need of a win, HASC were found wanting yet again as a brace from Nigerian forward Okorogor Praise (40th, 69th) and Soccor Velho in the 63rd consigned the Aircraftmen to their third straight defeat. RC Prakash scored the consolation goal for the Bangalore side, courtesy a penalty, in the final minute of regulation time.

Air India now go ahead of HASC on goal difference with both teams on 20 points each from 22 matches. The Aircraftmen are 12th while the Mumbai-based side are 11th.

The match started brightly for the hosts, taking control of possession and the opener seemed imminent. Captain J Murali and RC Prakash were combining well in midfield, but despite all their good play, no clear-cut chances came the home side’s way.

Air India looked happy to bide their time and hit on the counter, which is exactly what they did for the first goal. After another HASC attack had come to nought, Air India goalkeeper Avjit Ghosh played a long ball towards the HASC defence, who were caught napping. Forward Praise brought down the ball and turned HASC defender Joseph Femi inside out, before calmly slotting past goalkeeper Pramod from the right, five minutes from half-time.

“The first goal was crucial as we were struggling to cope with the match before that. But once we got that first goal, we took contol,” said Santosh Kashyap, Air India coach.

Air India almost went into the break 2-0 up when a rasping Velho strike from the left hit the crossbar. The second half saw the visitors looking to kill off the game and HASC struggling to find the equaliser. The home side were a touch unlucky though in the 54th minute, a strong penalty shout after a foul on A Hamza was tuned down.

The second goal for Air India came soon after, again through a counter. Ghosh played the ball out to midfied, where Velho found himself in acres of space and ran into the box past a sleeping HASC defence to slot it past Pramod in the 63rd minute.

The match was put to bed soon after. Velho found some space on the right and put in a peach of a cross to Allan Dias in the box, whose shot was saved by Pramod. But the resulting rebound fell straight to Praise who headed into an open goal from six yards out.

Prakash, found the consolation goal after being fouled in the box by Buoy Basfore. But the goal came a little too late. Now the Bangalore side find themselves up against it with just four matches to go against formidable opponents in -- Pune FC, Churchill Brothers, Dempo and East Bengal.

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