When the 33rd Federation Cup kicked off simultaneously in Pune and Kolkata just a week ago, Group D was seen as a two horse race between two majorly renovated teams: – Prayag united SC, which would be playing out their matches in front of the home crowd, and Chirag United Kerala. Both the teams were highly tipped by all the pundits to clinch the number one spot after the three rounds of matches. The other two teams comprising Group D comprise were old warhorses Air India FC and new entrants in the new I-league season-Sporting Club de Goa. Here is a brief look at how the matches were played out.

First Round: Prayag United prevail and take an early advantage, Sporting Club reciprocate.

The first round of group D matches kicked off last week, as Prayag United locked horns against their former sponsors’ team, Chirag United Kerala at Salt Lake Stadium. The pairing of former Churchill Brothers striker Kayne Vincent and Joshimar upfront proved to be fatal for the team from Kerala as the latter scored off a deflected Vincent free kick in the 17th minute to give an early lead to the third team from Kolkata in the Fed Cup. That strike was enough to give the men in purple an opening round win. Both, the Chirag Kerala goalkeeper, Sarath and Prayag United’s captain fantastic, Lalkamal Bhowmick,  put in a exemplary performance for their respective teams.

Sporting club de Goa won their comeback match among the top flight teams as they registered a 2-1 victory over Air India in the other Group D match. Air India raced to a one nil lead after the Sporting Club goalkeeper Gerard D’Mello’s mistake awarded a penalty to the Airmen, which was easily slotted in by the experienced Ezeh Henry. The comeback was complete for the Goa side after Ogba Kalu scored a stunner for the Orange jerseys in the 63rd minute to give his side the lead. Earlier, Kalio Karpeh had restored parity just after the lemon break at Salt Lake.

Results Summary:

Prayag United 1 – 0 Chirag United Kerala

Sporting Club De Goa 2-1 Air India

Prayag United – On a roll


Second Round: Sporting roll on; Prayag held

The second round saw home favorites Prayag United, with their tails up, face the Air India challenge. The game saw both the teams play out a bland game, with the home team peppering the Air India goal occasionally. At the end, both teams shared the points and the Santosh Kashyap mentored side their first points. His counterpart in the match, Sanjoy Sen was left lamenting the unfruitful play from his team throughout the game.

The team from Goa on the other hand grabbed their second victory in the group after they got better of P.Kunhikrishnan guided team, handing the team from south their second consecutive defeat. Ogba Kalu took advantage of lapse in concentration of Chirag players to slot in a decisive goal just before the full time to take the Oranje team on the top of the table. This was the Nigerian’s second goal in as many games.

Results Summary:

Air India 0-0 Prayag United

Chirag Kerala 0-1 Sporting Club De Goa


Third Round: Prayag Prevail in the virtual Quarter-final

Entering into the third round, the table had surprise leaders in Sporting club de Goa, leading the pack by securing maximum points from their two games. The Ekendra Singh mentored side had the Prayag hurdle between them and the elusive semi final spot. It all came down a do-or-die match for both the teams as the winner took all the spoils. Sporting Club de Goa had their tails up after back to back victories up their sleeve, whereas Prayag United had been held to a draw in their previous encounter.

The men in purple were in no mood to disappoint the home fans as they stepped on the gas from start, and allowed no space in the middle of the park for the dangerous Sporting midfield. Denson Devadas scored from a well floated corner by Tluanga inside five minutes to stamp an early authority on the match. The first half was totally dominated by the Kolkata side as the team in orange was satisfied seeing the net bulge only once in the first forty five. The second half saw a revitalized Sporting side take the field as the mid fielders started to interact with strikers on a regular basis. Both the strikers Karpeh and Ogba Kalu muffed a lot of chances to equalize, but just as the goans were crawling back into the match, Brazilian Joshimar came off the bench to  score his second goal of the tournament to virtually send the goan team packing. However, Nigerian born Ogba Kalu did manage to get his third of the tournament scoring from 12 yards.

Impressive display – Sporting Club de Goa


In the other match, which was a dead rubber as both the teams were out of the race for the semi final spot, was a keenly contested match between Air India and pointless Chirag Kerala. The match was a delight to watch as both the coaches opted for an attacking posture on the field, which lead to some exciting football. The Airmen raced to a 2-0 lead just as the clock struck half an hour into the match. Soccor Velho struck the back of the net as early as eleven minutes into the game and then new signing Takayuki Omi doubled the advantage for the Pilots. Michael Mattriciani then pulled one back for the Kerala side before the teams leaped into the tunnel for the half time break. Second half saw the same demonstration of attacking football by both the teams and soon Air India restored their two goal advantage as former Mumbai FC striker Ezeh Henry troubled the net. Mano TM scored in the 80th minute for P.Kunhikrishnan’s men to give the match an interesting finish, but Air India scraped to their maiden win of the tournament finishing at third place, above pointless Chirag Kerala side, who finished rock bottom of the Group D.

Results Summary:

Prayag United 2-1 Sporting Club De Goa

Air India 3-2 Chirag Kerala

Here is the final look at the Group D table :

TEAM

M

W

D

L

PTS

Prayag United

3

2

1

0

7

Sporting Goa

3

2

0

1

6

Air India

3

1

1

1

4

Chirag Kerala

3

0

0

3

0


Prayag United now face a much stiffer challenge when they will lock hors against reigning champions and local rivals East Bengal on Monday for a place in the finals. The mid field of Lalkamal Bhowmick and Denson Devadas, and the striking trio of Yakubu – Joshimar – Kayne Vincent, will be something to look out for and would certainly play a decisive role in deciding the outcome of this second semi-final clash.