Spreading the beautiful game across different regions of the country is one of the key objectives in Vision 2047, and the Federation’s plan to host the Hero Super Cup in Kerala, where both Hero ISL and Hero I-League teams will come together, is part of it. the-aiff.com is currently in Malappuram and Kozhikode and is following the progress of the clubs in the Hero Super Cup closely in a series of stories.
AIFF Media Team
MANJERI: East Bengal FC crashed out of the Hero Super Cup following a 2-2 draw against Aizawl FC in a Group B clash at the Payyanad stadium, on April 17, 2023.
Naorem Mahesh Singh and Sumeet Passi put the Red and Golds in front, but two goals from Aizawl FC in quick succession knocked the Kolkata club out of the competition.
East Bengal FC Head Coach Stephen Constantine, made several changes to the starting XI, no doubt in an attempt to rack up a much needed big win in their final group game. Sumeet Passi, Tuhin Das, Charalambos Kyriacou were all named on the team sheet for East Bengal.
Recently minted India international, Naorem Mahesh Singh, was the driving force of East Bengal’s attack for the majority of the match and it was him who found the opener in the 17th minute. Brilliantly played through by Cleiton Silva, Mahesh cut inside the box before crossing the ball to the centre of the area. His cross caught a wicked deflection though, ending up in the Aizawl goal.
Moments later, midfielder Mobashir Rahman had a golden opportunity to extend the lead. He received a loose ball just outside the edge of the box but ended up shooting over the crossbar.
One way traffic continued. Five minutes after the opener, East Bengal had doubled their lead. From a VP Suhair cross, Sumeet Passi rose highest to head it into an empty net after Aizawl FC goalkeeper Vanlalhriatpuia got his angles wrong in an attempt to punch the ball clear. At the time, a rout looked in the offing, Constantine’s side not just dominant on the ball, but menacing and adventurous with it too.
Right before halftime though reality struck, when Aizawl pulled one back against the run of play. Defender Akito Saito ran upfield before releasing a through pass to David Lalhlansanga. David made the most of the pass and took a shot from a narrow angle. Kamaljit saved the initial attempt but the rebound fell straight to Lalhruaitluanga, who kept his composure to pull one back.
If that wasn’t enough, minutes after the restart Aizawl drew level, David the architect, the artist and the magician conjuring up the equaliser.
Japanese defender Akito Saito’s long ball into the East Bengal penalty box was cleared neatly by Kamaljit. The keeper had rushed off his line to kick the ball clear, and ensure Aizawl didn’t run through, but his clearance fell straight to David 40 yards from goal. The forward took his shot and it sailed in, to the astonishment of almost everyone in the stadium.
East Bengal never really recovered from the setback and failed to create a clear cut chance in the second half. The result meant East Bengal were knocked out without registering a single win in the competition. Aizawl meanwhile got their first point, much deserved for all the grit they have shown in the tournament.