AIFF XI aims first I-League points

Gurgaon: After starting their campaign with a loss, AIFF XI would look to bounce back and gain their first points with a win against ONGC in an all-debutant I-League second round match here on Wednesday.

Floated by the All India Football Federation with an eye for the 2018 World Cup, AIFF XI lost their opening match against Chirag United 1-2 but would fancy their chances against another first timer ONGC, promoted from second division.

AIFF XI gave a spirited fight against Durand Cup champions Chirag in Kolkata on December 4 and they would look to their first I-League win at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium here.

A mixture of India Under-23 and Under 19 players, AIFF XI is coached by former Tottenham Hotspur youth team and Philippines national side coach Desmond Bulpin.

Bulpin’s young boys dished out an attacking style of football in their first match with strikers Jeje Lalpekhlua and Malswamfela impressive while Lalrindika Ralte scoring a brilliant goal.

Ralte, however, suffered a knee injury and he is likely to miss Wednesday’s match.

Winger Jibon Singh and Tirthankar Sarkar, who replaced Ralte, were in the thick of things against experienced Chirag and Bulpin would hope his two players did the same on Wednesday.

The AIFF XI defence led by captain Raju Gaikwad will have to be alert of the threat from experienced ONGC player Baba Tunde. The Nigerian had created problems for East Bengal defenders in ONGC’s 0-1 loss to title contenders East Bengal in their opening match.

Bulpin said his side were the better side against Chirag and he would look for a win on Wednesday.

“The first match was a disappointment because we could have won. We played well and we were the better team. Our strikers created chances but were unlucky not to get the goals. We will look for a win tomorrow,” Bulpin said after his team’s practice session here.

“Though we would like to finish as high as possible in the table but our priority is to develop players and give chances to everybody,” he said.