Balewadi Sports Complex, Pune
12th April, 2011 – 7:00 pm IST


Dempo Sports Club will look to put the disappointment of their I-League encounter with Viva Kerala behind them as they take on Uzbekistan side Nasaf in their second “home” game of the AFC Cup at Balewadi. Dempo were woefully out of touch in their previous game against Viva Kerala dishing out a poor performance that would have certainly disappointed coach Armando Colaco who sets high standards for his team. But they have a chance at redemption in this crucial battle at the continental level. Here’s how things stand in Group A which is turning out to be extremely tough. Dempo have three points from two games with a win and a loss. They have four games left equally home and away. So this game assumes an importance of gigantic proportions as a win for Dempo would certainly brighten their chances of proceeding to the last sixteen. A loss here would most certainly end all hopes as Dempo still have to travel to the sub zero temperatures of Uzbekistan to play Nasaf at their fortress Qarshi, which had a crowd of 15,000- the highest turn out so far in the AFC Cup- on the opening day.

Can Dempo come up with another winning result?

Team News and Tactical Brief:

Dempo SC:

“The winner will qualify for the knockout stage of the competition. I have no doubt about that,” Colaco said.

“The talk in the group is that Nasaf is the strongest of the teams and on their strength, should sail through. In the end there could be only one other spot and three claimants. We need to tread carefully.”

Armando is probably right. Before the start of the Cup he probably thought they had only Nasaf to rival them as they had played Al Ansar in the previous editions of the competition and beaten them in their own den. Al Tilal too weren’t expected to trouble the might of Dempo and everyone thought that it would be Nasaf and Dempo through to the last sixteen from Group A. But two rounds into the competition has probably eliminated just one team in Al Tilal while all the remaining three teams have a chance of going through.

“From what we saw of Nasaf, they are a strong side. It’s also true that the standard of competition in the AFC Cup has gone up by a few notches. When I saw the group at the start of the competition, I told myself ‘we have a chance’ but two matches and I know this is tougher than I initially thought.”

~ said Armando Colaco, the Dempo coach.

Dempo’s defeat to Al Ansar away in their previous game meant that they would have to win at least one of their remaining two away games and pocket maximum points or at least four from their remaining home games. Their last game in the I-League has only added to the worries of Armando Colaco. They raced to a two goal lead inside 5 minutes but then got complacent. Their goalkeeper produced an insipid display dropping harmless balls and was responsible for at least two of the three Viva Kerala goals. He is most likely to be replaced by Laxmikant Kattimani. There are injury worries at the back too for Armando. Domnic Noronha limped off midway through the second half and will not play tomorrow’s game. His place at centre back will be taken by Iranian Rouhollah Semieinia who will be alongside the rock solid Mahesh Gawli. The rest of the team will be the same. Samir Naik may start in place of Valeriano Rebello at right back. The midfield will be the same with Kalu and Climax at the centre and Peter and Clifford at the right and left of midfield respectively. Beto and Ranti will play upfront. Dempo were brilliant in the game against Al Tilal at Balewadi and will enjoy playing under lights.

Nasaf Qarshi FC:

Nasaf are certainly favorites for this tie although their coach Anatoliy Demayenko, a former manager at Dynamo Kiev and an ex-Soviet Player of the year, remains modest about his chances. “Dempo, despite what they claim, are a strong side and we know that they will come hard at us,” he said.

“We are not leaving anything to chance. Our philosophy has always been to win all games and we will continue to do just that. We arrived here a day before the clash. It’s humid here too but as professionals we need to overcome all these factors. It will not be an easy ride against Dempo. We have left two of our players behind. That’s not a worry for me. I believe in the team strength and not in individuals. This team is strong enough to overcome all odds.”

~ the Nasaf coach added.

The Nasaf team is oozing in quality. They have last season’s Uzbekistan League top-scorer Nosir Otakuziev in their side who can be a handful on his day and will definitely pose a lot of problems to Mahesh and company. They also can count on Serbian striker Ivan Boskovic and attacking Latvian midfielder Andrejs Perepljotkins to get them on the scoreboard. Nasaf have scored six goals in their two previous games. But the way Al Tilal gave them a fright in their previous game indicates they are no invincibles. Al Tilal in fact were leading 2-1 against them in Yemen but an 88th minute goal by Gevorkyan Artur gave the Uzbeki’s all three points. Nasaf are at the moment joint top in the Uzbekistan League and are in scintillating form winning four and drawing one of their five matches. They even held the mighty Champions League side Pakhtakhor in the PFL (Uzbeki League). A draw here wouldn’t be a bad result for Dempo but that would mean they would have to beat Al Ansar at home and Al Tilal away and hope for a few results to go their way. This is make or break time for Armando’s men who will have one eye on Jordan.

TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out For:

Beto (Dempo), Ivan Boskovic (Nasaf)

TheHardTackle’s Prediction:

Dempo SC 2-2 Nasaf Qarshi FC