The defeat was the Highlanders’ second consecutive loss in Durand Cup 2022.
Army Green, the last Services team to win the tournament back in 2016, inflicted Durand Cup 2022’s second consecutive loss on NorthEast United FC (NEUFC), running out 3-1 winners at Guwahati’s Indira Gandhi Athletic stadium in a Group D encounter. One of the greatest Services footballers of recent times, Greens skipper PC Lallawmkima, got a brace of goals while Somesh Kothari struck the other, in a game completely controlled by the Army team. Dipu Mirdha got a consolation for NEUFC in stoppage time.
It was the Greens first game of the tournament and they now join Odhisa FC (OFC) with a 100%-win record in the Group. OFC had beaten NEUFC 6-0 in the first Group D game on August 18, 2022 and Sudeva FC of Delhi had played out a 1-1 draw against Kerala Blasters in the second.
Lively start and relentless attacks
Both teams began in lively fashion in the first half but it was the Army men who were decisive in the middle. They drew first blood in the 9th minute through their captain who finished off an overhead pass from Sochin Chhetri. Lallawmkima, probably in an attempt to reach out and receive, ended up chipping keeper Nikhil Deka beautifully from a close range.
Army Green stepped up the pressure post the goal with the young NorthEast United side finding it difficult to contain the continuous attacks. Sochin Chhetri and Roel Lepcha were brilliant in the middle while Gautam Singh was proving to be a menace all across the pitch.
The pressure resulted in the second goal. Somesh started the attack from the right and cushioned the ball to an overlapping Chabin Rabha whose shot was saved by the goalkeeper. But the rebound fell kindly back to Somesh, who headed it into an empty net.
The drinks break saw some rejuvenation from NEUFC as they created chances that could not be converted by Dipu Mirdha. It was just flashes by the Highlanders as the 2016 Champions continued to pile on the pressure for the rest of the half.
Experience and Physicality prevails
The experience and physicality of the Army men were too much to handle for the youngsters from NEUFC as they continued to attack. The Greens increased their lead in the 55th minute through Lallawmkima yet again, who deservedly bagged the Man of the Match. A link-up play from the left by Somesh and Gautam found the skipper unmarked at the far post, who just had to tap in.
Army Green continued with possession dominance and created chances while the Highlanders could not produce any clear-cut openings and all their attempts were straight at the Army keeper Puia, who did not have to work much to keep them away.
A consolation did come the Highlanders’ way in injury time when Dipu Mirdha got to the end off a through ball from Alfred, who fluffed a couple of chances in the match himself. The goal sent the crowd into a frenzy.
Next matches of Army Green and North East United
Army Green Football Team will face Sudeva Delhi FC on August 25th 2022 and NorthEast United come up against the Kerala Blasters on August 27th, 2022.