Aircraftmen keen to consolidate

Football I-League

Bangalore team takes on Lajong FC.

taking wings: Shillong Lajong’s C Lallawmzuala (right) heads the ball during a practice  session as John Menyongar looks on in Bangalore on Tuesday. dH PHOTO/ b h shivakumar

Hindustan Aeronautics Sports Club finally registered their first I-League win of the season -- after 17 games -- against Chirag United Kerala last weekend. The Bangalore side will be hoping the much-needed victory will be the catalyst that will shape the crucial final leg of the season.

With two-thirds of the season gone, HASC have just six points from 17 matches, one behind Pailan Arrows (placed one rung above the bottom) and five behind Chirag Kerala.

However, since the AIFF developmental team Arrows cannot be relegated for three years, HASC need to catch up with the eleventh-placed Mumbai FC, who are eight points ahead of the bottom side. Taking that into consideration, the Aircraftmen will need to win most of their remaining nine matches if they are to have any chance of surviving in the top division.

The crucial final nine-game swing begins against Shillong Lajong at the Bangalore Football stadium on Wednesday afternoon. Lajong, who were promoted from the second division, have done well so far under the astute guidance of Pradhyum Reddy and lie comfortably placed in 10th with 18 points.

However, the Shillong side have not won a match in four attempts, and HASC will be keen to take advantage of that while also looking to record their first home win of the season.

“The boys are feeling very good after picking up the first win. Now we are just taking it one game at a time, and tomorrow’s match will be another one we will look to get full points from,” M Muralidharan, HASC manager, said during his team’s practice session on Saturday morning.

HASC do have injury problems with captain Joseph Femi only fit enough to be on the bench while midfielder R Karthigeyan is ruled out. Experienced foward RC Prakash is suspended after picking up his second yellow card against Chirag Kerala.

The Aircraftmen will start with the same team that won on Saturday with Rohit Chand, normally a left-back, partnering K Ramesh at centre-back while Deepak Prakash will play with A Hamza upfront in a 4-4-2 formation. Goalkeeper P Pramod, who has captained the side in Femi’s absence, will again lead the side out on Wednesday.

Lajong showed their ambtions by making some big signings in the January transfer window, unlike HASC who have made no signings barring the return of Chand. Serbian Aleksandar Sujdovic has been released by the Bangalore team but no replacement has been found.

The arrivals of internationals Renedy Singh, who will miss Wednesday’s match due to injury, and Sushil Singh along with Australian Matthew Osvaldo Mayora have bolstered the side from Meghalaya and Reddy said he will not settle for a middle-of-the-table finish from his team.

“When we started the season we wanted to finish in the top half and we still believe we can do that,” Reddy said.

“HASC are a good team; they gave us a really good game in the reverse fixture and were unlucky to lose that day. I hope they stay up this season,” he added.

Other matches on Wednesday: At Nehru Stadium, Margao: Sporting Clube de Goa vs Pune FC; At Balewadi Sports Complex, Pune: Mumbai FC vs Dempo.

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