Vasco Sports Club huffed and puffed to a 2-0 victory over a plucky Luangmual Football Club in their I-League Second Division Group C encounter to keep their hopes of progressing to the final phase alive on Tuesday.
Bangalore boy and former HASC captain J Murali scored a goal on either side of the interval as the Goans, who can count themselves somewhat lucky to have come away unscathed against a spirited Luangmual, jumped to the top of the table along with the already qualified Mumbai Tigers, who are on 16 points, at the Bangalore Football Stadium.
Despite sharing the pole position, Vasco are still not certain of their berth for the two-legged final phase as their fate hinges on the outcome of the final league match between the Tigers and Southern Samity. On 14 points, Samity will advance to the final phase if they beat the Tigers. However, anything less than a win will power the Tigers and Vasco to the next phase.
Knowing only a victory will extend their stay in Bangalore which is also scheduled to play host to the final phase from March 30 to April 12, the Goans made their attacking intentions clear from the word go. And their early intent nearly paid dividends in the ninth minute only to be denied by Rosangliana’s goal-line clearance of Mario Masceranhas’ point-blank shot.
The Goans, however, stroked ahead five minutes later following a fine counter attack. Striker Emmanuel Chindeu collected a pass just off the midfield, dribbled down the left flank before relaying a good ball to Murali, who camly slammed it home.
Bizarrely, post the goal Vasco turned completely passive as Luangmual began to take control of the proceedings. Known for quick feet and never-say-die attitude, the Mizoram lads troubled the seasoned Goans with some fine forays.
They nearly stole an equaliser to dash Vasco hopes in a gritty second-half display. First, Rosangliana shot wide from the edge of the box in the 63rd minute while moments later Jonathan Lalsangzuala and Laldinliana Vertre squandered a great chance from close range.
Despite the setbacks, the Mizoram boys kept pressing forward as Vasco struggled to keep possession. Completely on the attack, Luangmual were then caught by a classic counter-attack move when Lalruatthara ended up conceding a penalty after bringing Agnelo Colaco down five minutes from time. Murali then converted from the spot to calm Vasco nerves, at least for the moment.
In the day’s opening match, Michel Segun Tayo struck an injury time equaliser as Kalighat Milan Sangha FC held South United FC 2-2. Amoes (45th) and Vignesh (59th) struck for South United while Resangpemmi Kosomwoshi (18th) scored the opener for Kalighat.
Wednesday’s matches: Eagles FC vs Hindustan FC (1.30 pm); Mumbai Tigers FC vs Southern Samity (4.00 pm).