All India Football Federation’s developmental side, the Indian Arrows, showed grit, determination, and fighting spirit in their 2-1 win over Aizawl FC at the Kishore Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata, West Bengal on Tuesday. Parthib Gogoi’s early strike was cancelled out by a wonder goal from Malsawmtluanga, but the Arrows showcased their never-say-die attitude as Lalchhanhima Sailo’s strike in the 36th minute proved to be the difference between the two sides. Goalkeeper Syed Zahid Hussain Bukhari, in inspired form, made some crucial saves in the second half to help the young guns in maintaining their lead.
Aizawl FC wasted little time in formalities and played their usual possession-based style of football. Coming on the back of a 1-0 win over Neroca, Yan Law’s team played with confidence and created goal-scoring chances in the opening minutes of the match. In the 9th minute, a well-worked move that saw Brandon release a threatening ball into the Arrows’ box was cleared with acumen.
Although Aizawl FC kept hold of the ball for much of the half, they fell behind in the 11th minute courtesy of a beautiful Parthib Gogoi goal. A deflected shot found Gogoi inside the box and the nimble-footed forward curled the ball into the back of the net with an outside-of-the-boot shot, as the Indian Arrows led 1-0.
Unfazed despite conceding the goal, Aizawl FC kept dominating possession and kept inching towards the Arrows’ net. Their rewards reaped dividends in the 22nd minute when Malsawmtluanga produced a sensational finish from outside of the box to bring the team back on level terms. The midfielder with ample space in front of him and the Arrows defence’s hasty tackles, saw an opportunity to find the net from distance. He rocketed a shot from distance to leave Zahid Husain with no reply, as the ball crashed into the bottom right corner.
There was another twist in the tale yet to come. Despite Aizawl FC looking like the dominant side, Lalchhanhima Sailo was found by an accurate cross inside the box. The forward controlled it with ease and smashed it into the top corner with his left foot to hand the lead back to the Indian Arrows.
After the scoreline read 2-1 in the Indian Arrows’ favour at half-time, Aizawl FC upped the ante. Although Yan Law’s team are mathematically safe from relegation, the Mizoram-based club, playing for pride, left no stone unturned to find the equaliser.
But for all their possession, chances were at a premium as their forwards were seldom supplied with accurate through balls from the midfield.
Lacking creativity, Aizawl relied on long balls to test the Arrows’ defence line. In the 68th minute, Zahid Hussain pulled out a blinder of a save to deny Aizawl from close range after substitute Lalremsanga’s shot from inside the box was parried away. Lalremsanga was found by an Alfred Jaryan through-ball that cut the Arrows’ defence in half. In the 70th minute, Hussain once again shut the gates for Aizawl as he saved Brandon’s attempt from close range.
Aizawl FC tried their level best to breach the Arrows’ citadel and made attacking changes as well to at least salvage a point. However, with the goalkeeper, Zahid Hussain in inspired form, and the Arrows’ defence playing together as a compact unit, attacking chances were cleared away with ease.
The Indian Arrows held on to their slight advantage and defeated Aizawl FC as the full-time scoreline read 2-1 in their favour.