Former Aizawl player Laldanmawia Ralte scored a late penalty to ensure a win for the Red and Gold Brigade.
Aizawl FC failed to book a semi-final berth as East Bengal edged them 1-0 in the first quarter-final of the Hero Super Cup, courtesy a late penalty from Laldanmawia Ralte at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Sunday. The match was neck-to-neck throughout, with East Bengal building up the majority of chances and Aizawl trying to keep their potent attack in check, before a mistake within the five minutes of injury-time cost Aizawl the win.
The head coach of the winning side, Khalid Jamil was present to address the media in the post-match press conference. He was asked as to why Ralte took the penalty ahead of bigger and experienced players on the pitch to which he replied, “We saw Ralte in the practices and as (Mahmoud) Al Amna had failed to score the penalty last time, we had decided that Ralte should go to take it. He was also a part of Aizawl in the last season and hence, he was the best option.”
The 40-year old further went on to share his feelings after the hard-fought victory, focusing on which areas East Bengal did well in. “First of all, I am feeling good for the win and for qualifying in the next round. It’s because, as I have said before, one mistake will cost you the match. Our concentration was good and we tried until the last minute. We started the match well. We dictated play and even the ball position was good, but we were failing to score. But everyone tried and we eventually won,” he said.
From Aizawl’s end, their head coach Santosh Kashyap was present to take questions from the media and brushed aside any comments on the team taking a defensive approach throughout the 90 minutes. “We weren’t defensive at all and wanted to go all out from the very first. They are of course a good side, so the plans didn’t work initially. But we played attacking and tried to press them,” he stated.
When asked what according to him went wrong on the night, for which they lost out on a semi-final berth, the 51-year old answered, “Nothing went wrong. I am proud of my players. It was a close match. Against a strong team, we played excellently I believe. We had a number of chances and we could have finished those, like at the last minute. But yes, the experience made the difference. The young defenders and the young goalkeeper made mistakes and they will learn from the mistakes. But, I am happy with my players. They played excellent and we tried our best to win.”
After bowing out of the competition, the season is not yet over for the Hero I-League 2016-17 champions as they have AFC Cup fixtures lined up. But when asked how he evaluates the season as of now, Kashyap inferred, “The season is not yet over for us as we have to play four more matches in the AFC Cup, but we will take one match at a time. I think, we played all the matches well but there’s a lack of experience. Only four foreigners are in the team and remaining are all young players. So they will surely learn from their mistakes and moving ahead, will play well in the future. But I am happy with the team. We made our way out of the relegation zone and also played well in the knockout games of this tournament. We almost pulled another upset against East Bengal but it’s all in the game.”