HASC among country's elite

HASC among country's elite

Aircraftmen hold SESA to seal place in I-Leagues Division One

HASC among country's elite

In a different league: HASC players acknowledge the cheers from the crowd after earning promotion to the I-League’s Division One. DH Photo

Needing just a point to seal their place in the nation’s top-flight football competition, HASC secured a nervy 1-1 draw. Prolific young striker Satish fired home the equaliser in the closing moments of the first half as the Aircraftmen joined Oil and Natural Gas Commission in earning promotion on a stifling afternoon at the Bangalore Football stadium.

“It is indeed a dream come true,” said HASC coach M Muralidharan. “We faced a lot of challenges but the boys countered them with hard work, discipline and hard work.
“We did not play to our potential today, but we had so much of pressure on us while SESA had nothing to lose. However, the result is satisfying and the real work begins now,” added the coach, who took charge in late 2008.

HASC began strongly in front of a huge crowd but very quickly went off the boil. While they did hold a fair share of possession, they could hardly force the play against a Goan side which fought toe-to-toe and relied on counter-attacks.

Slowly growing in confidence, SESA drew first blood when striker Israil Gurung served out a perfectly-weighted cross from the right that was headed in by unmarked centre-back Selwyn Fernandes in the 28th minute. Boosted by the goal, SESA intensified their attacks and nearly killed the hopes of the Aircraftmen in the 40th minute when Gurung relayed another beautiful cross, only to be thwarted by lunging custodian Amar Deb. Satish ensured his team broke for half time with the scores level, applying the finishing touches to an enticing piece of play in the 44th minute. After a brief exchange of passes, J Murali cleverly back-heeled to Satish, who curled it past SESA goalkeeper Jason D’Mello with a left-footer.

Post the leveller, the Aircraftmen appeared utterly confused. They were hesitant in pushing forward and leaving gaps in defence, knowing that a SESA goal would make things difficult for them. SESA cashed in on HASC’s indecisiveness and bombarded them with repeated forays post the hour-mark. However, the HASC defence stood tall with Jai Kumar, Ricky Joy and ’keeper Deb producing fine blocks.

With tension mounting, Xavier Vijay Kumar had a great chance to seal the fixture but the winger’s shot from a counter was saved by D’Mello in the 76th minute. Muralidharan’s constant instructions asking his team to stay back clearly meant HASC were going to only defend, and they did so effectively.

Other result: Vasco: 1 (Joel Sequira 25th) drew Mohammedan Sporting: 1 (Jothi Kumar 67th).