A resilient Kenkre FC played their hearts out to hold table-toppers RoundGlass Punjab FC to a draw in an exciting encounter in the I-League.
The match saw aggression from both sides as the referee issued six yellow cards in the first half and two yellow cards, one of them resulting in a send-off, in the second.
Six goals were scored in the first half, with Kenkre FC matching the skills of RoundGlass Punjab FC and going head-to-head with the league toppers.
It is not every day that so much excitement is packed into one match, between two sides as apart on the points table as these two. In the end, lowly Kenkre FC snatched away one precious point from I-League table-toppers RoundGlass Punjab here at Cooperage Stadium on Wednesday, February 1.
The match got off to an electrifying start when in only the third minute, Kenkre’s midfielder Anjan Bista cut into the Punjab box from the left and centred to Ranjeet Pandre, who calmly tapped in to make it 1-0. Two minutes later, Bista’s cross from the left wing found an unmarked Aman Gaikwad at the far post. His right-footed volley went straight in.
Staikos Vergetis and his boys looked shell-shocked and they could not get a grip on the proceedings till the 12th minute when they had the first attempt at goal from Juan Mera’s free-kick. Valpuia’s head, however, was not good enough to beat Kenkre goalie Padam Chhetri.
However, Akhil Kothari’s men lost the plot after being 2-0 up and Punjab were soon all over them. Things started to heat up and within the first 25 minutes, Chencho Gyeltshen and Ashis Pradhan of Punjab were shown yellow cards. Punjab’s goal came in the 25th minute when Valpuia made a solo run all the way from midfield into the opposition box, with Majcen and Chencho waiting on his left.
The entire Kenkre defence was busy marking Majcen and missed Chencho, who tapped in Valpuia’s pass. Punjab were back in it.
Hardly a couple of minutes had passed when Kenkre custodian Chhetri failed to grab Juan Mera’s powerful left-footer from outside the box. Huidrom Naocha Singh pounced on the rebound to make it 2-2. Then Chhetri made the blunder, without which the home team could have boasted of beating the table-toppers, after beating Sreenidi Deccan the other day.
It was the 39th minute of the match. Brandon Vanlalremdika crossed from the right and Kenkre’s Banpynkhnawram Nongkhlaw tried a wild clearance as the ball flew towards the goal. Chhetri could have caught it but strangely fist it away, with Majcen on his shoulders. The Slovenian got a faint touch as the ball landed inside the goalline to put Punjab ahead.
However, the lead did not last even a minute. Suraj Jeet Negi, who was to receive two yellow cards later and get marching orders, split the Punjab defence with a through pass to put things on a plate for Pandre. He dodged past Kiran Kumar Limbu to restore parity.
The rest of the match was more about ill-tempered moments that earned players, and even officials on the bench, yellow cards. Both defences looked tighter after the breather. Punjab still had more possession and created more opportunities, but luck did not favour them. Brandon’s shot off Mera’s cross from the right hit the upright. Even Majcen came close to scoring his tenth goal in the I-League but his header went over the bar in the 84th minute.
In the final minute of stoppage time, Valpuia’s shot from a hand-shaking distance was blocked by a defender. Punjab players and staff thought there was a handball off the resultant corner and they deserved a penalty. Referee Dipu Roy thought otherwise and only awarded yet another yellow card to one of Vergetis’s assistants. (ANI)