Indian football does not exist on pen and paper but on the field, Mohammedan SC and FC Goa kicked off the 131st Durand Cup at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Tuesday.
The All Indian Football Federation was suspended by the sport’s world governing body FIFA late on Monday.
The crowds though came out in numbers to support the home side as Pritam Singh, Faslurahman and Marcus Joseph managed to overturn FC Goa skipper’s Mohammed Nemil super strike as Mohammedan SC won 3-1.
The fact that this was the first game of the season was evident from the opening exchanges of the encounter. Both teams looked off the pace.
The first meaningful chance of the game came to SK Faiaz, who was deployed on the wings but got the ball in the middle of the park in the 29th minute and decided to go on a tearing run. It did not yield much as the defenders had caught up and his shot ended up being well blocked.
Pritam Singh missed a golden chance to get his side up a minute later as a cut-back from the right found his way over to the left but he managed to blaze over an empty net.
At the 31-minute mark, Marcus Joseph did not make the continuous pressure count as his nimble feet got him away from his marker but his shot too crept agonisingly wide.
It was FC Goa though who took the lead from a stunning Muhammed Nemil strike against the run of play in the 35th minute after a miss pass from Nuriddin Davronov into a dangerous area. The young Gaur side-stepped his marker on latching onto the loose ball and curled the ball to the side of the hapless Sankar Roy in goal.
After the break, Mohammedan SC looked like a new team as they came at the FC Goa defence with renewed vigour as coach Andrey Cherenyshov’s words surely rang in their ears.
SK Faiaz got the ball on the wing as he darted towards the touchline and tried picking up Marcus Joseph at the back post but Hrithik Tiwari in Goa’s goal managed to punch it out. It was only as far as the edge of the penalty box as Pritam Singh blasted his team level in the 49th minute.
In the 59th minute, Mohammedan were on the attack yet again as Faiaz went up for a floated ball from Abhishek Ambekar but Hrithik managed to thwart him but both ended up on the ground.
The game turned physical as players turned and the cramps started creeping in, especially for the FC Goa youngsters.
The constant stoppages in play meant that there were a number of new faces on the pitch and two of them combined well to hand Mohammedan the lead for the first time in the match. Abhash Thapa’s cross found the head of Faslurahman in the 84th minute.
In added minutes after the end of regulation time, Marcus tapped in a third from a Faslurahman cross, with most of the FC Goa players looking like they just wanted the game to end. And both sets thanked the heavens when it did.