Salgaocar, Viva Kerala relegated from I-League

February 17th, 2008 - 9:17 pm ICT by admin  

Margao, Feb 17 (IANS) Former champions Salgaocar for the second time in three years played out a 1-1 entertaining draw with Dempo Sports Club in the penultimate round of the I-League football tournament at the Nehru Stadium here Sunday. Viva Kerala, who lost to East Bengal 1-3 in Calicut, was the other team to be relegated for the league. With the draw, Dempo failed to turn the heat on title chasers Churchill Brothers and the final round Feb 23 is set for an exciting clash. Dempo and Churchill s are tied with 33 points each in their kitty. A win against Salgaocar would have would have put Dempo two points clear of Churchill. But as coach Mauricio Afonso later admitted, Dempo had shot themselves in the foot with some amazingly lethargic finishing.

Dempo have now not won a single game in five attempts, a disturbing shift from the four wins in five matches at the start of the I-League.

“We have a mountain to climb against Viva Kerala, but I think the players will measure up to the challenge,” Mauricio said in a voice that was not all too convincing.

Salgaocar’s 1-1 draw was entertaining, but it did not stop the former National Football League champions from getting relegated for the second time in three years.

It was a battle of arch-rivals at Nehru Stadium with Dempo and Salgaocar dished end-to-end stuff, but Dempo could have so easily picked three points had strikers Ranty Martins and Edeh Chidi shown little faith in each other.

At the start of the game, Salgaocar was the more enterprising of the lot moving the ball around nicely on either flanks.

Shylo Malswathulunga should have put Salgaocar ahead inside 10 minutes, but his in-stepper from close range found Abhijit Mondal under the Dempo horizontal bar.

At the other end, Roberto Mendes da Silva sent a defence splitting ball that Edeh Chidi managed to control, but wasted too much time delivering the knock out punch.

Salgaocar raced ahead much against the run of play. A 29th minute wonder strike saw Joe Rodrigues’ powerful strike from just outside the penalty area sail into the far corner of the nylons.

The shot came from quite a distance, but was packed with so much power that Abhiji could only watch helplessly.

Dempo’s reaction to the setback was expectedly hard-hitting. The long balls were replaced by crisp passing while square passes gave way to swift movements on the flanks.

Dempo managed to restore parity in the 36th minute when Ranty Martins controlled a nice ball from Johnny D’Cruz and slotted home before Salgaocar defender Hery Habimana could block him.

Once Dempo drew level, Dempo simply grew in confidence, but could not translate the overwhelming majority of ball possession into goals.

Ranty Martins, Edeh Chidi, Roberto Mendes da Silva and Nicolau Borges all missed gilt-edge chances twice with an open goal infront of them.

No wonder, the plethora of missed chances prompted a furious “if you miss so many chances, you don’t deserve to win,” reaction from the normally-guarded Mauricio Afonso.

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