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I-League Qualifier: Honours even between ARA FC and Garhwal FC

I-League Qualifier: Honours even between ARA FC and Garhwal FC
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By

Sayan Chatterjee

Published: 16 Oct 2020 2:45 PM GMT

ARA FC squared off against Garhwal FC today in the early kick-off at Kalyani stadium in what was a battle of pride between two beleaguered sides. Both the sides gave a good account of themselves as the match ended in a 1-1 draw after Garhwal’s 17th minute opener was cancelled out by ARA through an 81st minute penalty. With this result, both the teams crashed out of contention with the match between Mohammedan SC and Bhawanipore FC later in the day turning into a virtual final.

It was a cagey affair for the first ten minutes as both sides looked circumspect in possession and tried to impose themselves physically through a number of streaky fouls. ARA’s Pratik Swami created the first real moment of the match when he latched on to a decent pass from Stanley Eze and darted down the left channel only to be tackled by Garhwal centre-back Neeraj Bhandari. Shouts for a penalty made no difference as the referee waved play on. The opening goal came soon after when Garhwal captain Bala Al Hassan’s measured cross from a free kick found an unmarked Neeraj Bhandari inside the ARA penalty box who headed home past goalkeeper MelroyFernandes (1-0).

The ensuing minutes saw both the teams try to take control over the midfield with half chances on either end falling to ARA strikers Shoaib Ahmed and Stanley Eze, as well as Garhwal’sAfdalVarikkodan, all of whom failed to convert. ARA FC were handed a lifeline when the ever eager Pratik Swami was brought down inside the box by Rahul Das but coach VivekNagul was left fuming whenShoaib blasted the penalty high and wide. Garhwalresponded well, with midfielder Muhammed Shafeer trying a left-footed curler from just outside the box that went narrowly wide.

The beginning of the second half was extremely messy with tackles flying in from both sides and a number of misplaced passes. GFC had a good opportunity to extend their lead when substitute Suman Sarkar’s cross from the right was half-cleared by an ARA defender and the loose ball fell for Afdal to shoot, only for him to miss the target again. He was again at fault when he failed to score offMahipAdhikari’s layoff inside the penalty box after some great work by the midfielder who carried the ball 50 yards before finding his teammate. Garhwal were gradually strengthening their grip on the match when suddenly ARA FC broke through down the middle, with the ball falling for Eze who was hustled and harried inside the box as he tried to get his shot away. The referee adjudged the tugging from behind to be a penalty and this time, defenderSurajit Seal stepped up and made no mistake in slotting the ball past goalkeeper SayakBarai (1-1). As the final whistle came closer, both teams tried to push through and find a second goal but to no avail.

The result may not have been one which either of the teams would have been looking for but for both managers, the experience of playing this tournament should hold them in good stead. While this was Garhwal’s final match of the qualifiers, ARA FC still has a match left against Bhawanipore FC on Monday and assistant coach Salim Pathan reiterated the team’s desire to come back and win that match as they look to take some positives from what has been a disappointing campaign.

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