Sometimes football can be a rather cruel game. For a lot of people, football can be a release from everything else and for that ninety minutes you’re in the stadium, nothing else matters.
When It Hurts, It Hurts Badly
However, when it kicks you in the bollocks in the fifth minute of second-half stoppage time, then it hurts and it hurts badly. Welcome to the last eight of the inaugural Hero Super Cup where I-League sides Aizawl and East Bengal played out an enthralling encounter which was decided at the death.
In the preview for the game, I commented that more often than not that the games between this pair tend to up in draws as they seem to match each other all over the pitch and yesterday was no different. Throughout the duration of the game, it wasn’t as if either side didn’t have many chances as East Bengal’s Dudu and Aizawl’s Ionescu both tested the respective keepers, sometimes though, if it’s not meant to be then it’s not meant to be.
So, there were chances at either end and poor finishing and good goalkeeping meant the game was going to be destined for extra time which is all the players needed in the blistering heat.
Why Wasn’t Kickoff Later In The Day?
Quite why the game was being played at 4 pm in India I have absolutely no idea because that would’ve put the temperature gauge at roughly thirty degrees, yet if they played a little bit later like they had been doing, it would have meant it was a few degrees cooler which can make all the difference.
Trust me on this, I know, I played 5-a-side yesterday morning and it was roughly thirty degrees and the heat was unbearable, didn’t stop me pinging exquisite diagonals, though. If you’ve got it, you’ve got it. The only thing that surprised me was that I didn’t get picked up by a scout while I was playing, maybe next time.
Back to the task at hand, the game was decided by a penalty which was awarded deep into stoppage time. Ansumana Kromah, who had only been on the pitch for a matter of minutes was brought down by Lalawmpuia in the Aizawl goal.
Ralte Keeps East Bengal’s Dreams Alive
Maybe he was just fed up with playing in the heat and couldn’t bear the thought of another thirty minutes? Maybe. Ralte was the one tasked with putting the game to bed and he did just that as he beat Lalawmpuia to shatter Aizawl’s dreams and keep East Bengal’s alive.
Both of the coaches faced the press after the game and had this to say on the matter, we’ll begin with the coach on the winning side; Khalid Jamil, who was pleased with how his side played…
“Feeling good, we have gone into the next stage, it was vital. I have told this earlier, just one mistake can cost you. Our concentration and discipline were good and we tried until the last minute. We started off well, we dictated the game and had more ball possession.
If we had scored an early goal, we could have seen more goals today but everybody tried. I’m feeling ecstatic. This was the best way to win the game. On top of that, Danmawia (Laldanmawia Ralte) scored. He’s my favourite player.”
Bit weird for the coach to come out and say one player is his favourite, then again, this is Indian football we’re talking about where absolutely nothing makes sense on the best of days. Sometimes it’s just best to go with the flow…
Khalid was also asked about Dudu’s performance as it was one which he missed a few chances:
“Sometimes, you miss sometimes you score, this happens in football. In this tournament, we had to win this match, and we did, that’s it. We have time to think about our next match. He (Dudu) is an experienced man. It happens. He will fight and make a strong comeback.”
What that tells me is, he’ll be on the bench in the semi-final. Cynical, I know. In the opposing dugout, Santosh Kashyap was proud of his players:
“I feel nothing went wrong. I am proud of my players. We had a match not too long ago (in the AFC Cup), had to travel and we came back and put our best team. We did excellent I believe. If we had got the chances, we could have finished that, like Andrei (Ionescu) in the last minute. Both teams decided to go all out. But they are definitely are a good side. We did not play a defensive game. We were attacking and pressed,”
The Aizawl gaffer closed with this;
“I am overall happy with how the domestic season panned out after I took charge. One reason for this was the inexperience. We have very young Indian players. I took the team out of the relegation zone and we finished sixth and a quarter-final achievement in the Super Cup is great.”
He’s got a half-decent point there to be fair to him and if they can somehow manage to get out of their AFC Cup group as well, then this season should definitely be chalked up as a success. That was that, the East Bengal fire keeps on burning as they dream of Super Cup glory whereas Aizawl have to pick themselves up as they face Abahani Dhaka on Wednesday in what is a must-win game in the aforementioned AFC Cup.
One out of the four semi-final spots have been secured, who will the other three go to? Find out this week.
Until the next time.