Debutants DSK Shivajians FC will hope to continue their historic run when they face-off against Neroca FC in the semifinals of the 128th Durand Cup at the Ambedkar Stadium, New Delhi, on Friday.
The youthful DSK Shivajians ensured their place in the last-four with a 2-1 victory over Army Green in a must-win game and will hope to build on the momentum against Group-B runners-up Neroca FC when they return to familiar surrounds.
For the record, DSK Shivajians played four consecutive games at the venue, which included two wins, a draw and loss, before beating the defence side in the last game at the Harbaksh Stadium to top Group-A with 10 points.
On the other hand, the Manipur side is no pushover and made it to the knockout stage with the distinction of being the only team to boast of an unbeaten record in this edition of the competition.
Talking about the challenge Neroca FC would possess for DSK Shivajians’, First Team Manager Dave Rogers said: “Neroca are a very hard working team with a good blend of youth and experience. On their day, they are more than capable of beating any team. So, we know that if we are to progress, then we will have to be at our best to overcome the fierce challenge of NEROCA.”
Friday’s semi-final clash will be the first time the two teams play each other. Both the teams are expected to start with their strongest eleven to have a better chance of making it to the final of Asia’s oldest football tournament.
Going into the match, after a three-day break following a hectic weekend, where DSK Shivajians played thrice in four days the team will be fresh for the battle ahead.
Moreover, the team now has a full 20-member squad at their disposal to choose the final playing eleven. Delighted with the fact, Dave Rogers added: “It is exciting and challenging for me to be now in a position to select a starting eleven from a full squad of players who are not only eager and excited to play but are also in this together to achieve the same goals.”
Captain Juan Quero, club’s joint top-scorer along with Rohit Kumar, has scored four goals and will be looking to add to that tally in Friday’s match. Meanwhile, the Pune-based team will also look to build upon their impressive defensive display against Army Green with Mohd. Sajid Dhot now back from a one-match suspension.
DSK Shivajians FC: W-W-D-L-W
Neroca FC: W-D-W-D-D
ROAD TO SEMIFINAL
Group-A: DSK Shivajians (1st – 10 points)
Rd-1: bt Sporting Clube de Goa 2-1
Rd-2: bt Gangtok Himalayan SC 2-1
Rd-3: drew with Indian Navy 3-3
Rd-4: lost to Minerva AFC 1-2
Rd-5: bt Army Green 2-1
Group-B: Neroca FC (2nd – 9 points)
Rd-1: bt Real Kashmir 2-0
Rd-2: drew with Dempo SC 1-1
Rd-3: bt Aizawl FC 1-0
Rd-4: drew with Indian Air Force 1-1
Rd-5: drew with Army Red 2-2