Dempo add to HASC's woes

Football I-League: Ranti Martins slams two goals to help Goan side remain on top

walk in the park: Dempo SC’s Ranti Martins (right) celebrates with Clifford Miranda after scoring against HASC during their I-League match on Wednesday. DH PHOTO/ Kishor kumar bolarRanti Martins promised a hat-trick before the match, but fell short by one goal. It didn’t really matter, as Dempo SC ran away comfortable 3-0 winners over Hindustan Aeronautics Sports Club in their last  I-League match of 2011 here on Wednesday.

The inevitable goals in the second half from Martins (55th and 66th) and Climax Lawrence (90th) cemented the Goans’ reign at the top of the table with 27 points from 12 matches, one ahead of Churchill Brothers. HASC are nailed to the bottom with an embarrassing one point from 12 matches.

Without coach Armando Colaco -- who flew back to Goa on Tuesday afternoon following the demise of his brother -- Dempo struggled to adapt to the artificial pitch at the Bangalore Football stadium in the early stages of the game, with HASC looking more threatening going forward.

The hosts’ best chance came in the 11th minute, but striker A Hamza inexplicably missed the ball from two yards out after James Singh had played in Vinoth Kumar to cross from the right.

HASC, however, were almost handed a late Christmas present in the 27th minute. A low cross from RC Prakash was deflected towards goal by Mahesh Gawli, but Dempo goalkeeper Subhashish Roy Chowdhury made a fine save with his right hand.

The second half, which has been HASC’s bane all season, saw a different Dempo, who had seven players from India’s SAFF Cup-winning team in the starting XI, come on to the park. The tempo increased visibly with the visitors making an effort to hold on to the ball a lot more.

“We did not play well in the first half. We generally play possession football, and that is exactly what we tried to do in the second period. I’m glad we found our passing game in the second,” assistant coach Mauricio Afonso, who stood in for Colaco, said.

That possession football bore fruit in the 54th minute. Valeriano Rebello struck a wicked long-range effort from 24 yards after the ball fell to him off a corner. The ball struck HASC defender Biju Kumar’s outstretched hand inside the penalty area, leaving the referee with no choice but to award a spot-kick. Martins stepped up and easily found the target, sending goalkeeper P Pramod the wrong way.

An alert Martins made it 2-0 in the 66th minute. Anthony Pereira’s curling free-kick was brilliantly deflected on to the post by Pramod, but Martins reacted first to the rebound and smashed it into an open goal.

HASC went desperately in search of goals, with James, Vinoth, Gautham Debnath and Malemngamba Meitei all coming close. But poor finishing coupled with some good saves by Chowdhury kept the home team at bay.

The third goal came in stoppage time as, seeing the goalkeeper off his line, Lawrence placed a perfect strike into the back of the net.

“We played well today, but luck was just not on our side,” HASC manager M Muralidharan told reporters. “Our next game (against Sporting Clube de Goa on January 4) will be in the New Year, so we hope for a fresh start in 2012,” Muralidharan, who will be delighted to see the back of 2011, added.

Other matches:

In Margao: Churchill Brothers: 5 (ND Opara 8th, 26th, 52nd) bt Sporting: 0; In Kolkata: Mohun Bagan: 3 (Odafa Onyeka Okolie 41st, 84th, Ashim Biswas 80th) bt Air India: 1 (Mohammad Shafi 54th).

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