AIFF XI beat HAL 2-1 in an impressive show

Gurgaon: An impressive AIFF XI beat HAL, Bangalore 2-1 in a round six match to score their second successive win in the I-League here on Thursday.

Striker Malsawmfela (33rd minute) and Bikramjit Singh (53rd) scored for AIFF XI while RC Prakash found the target for HAL through a penalty kick in the 88th minute at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium.

AIFF XI were clearly the better side today though the scoreline did not tell the whole story. They could have won by a bigger margin had not captain Jeje Lalpekhlua missed a spot kick and the woodwork come in their way twice.

With today`s win, AIFF XI have seven points from six matches, the same as HAL from the same number of matches.

HAL had better ball distribution and exchange of passes in the early minutes of the game but the AIFF backline of Deepak Devrani, Prathmesh Maulingkar, Abhisek Das and Lalrozama Fenai did not allow their rivals any goal-scoring chances.

As time wore on, the young AIFF XI boys took control of the game with the strike duo of Malsawmfela and Jeje showing fine understanding between them to create problems for HAL defenders.

In the fifth minute, Malsawmfela`s free header off a cross from a left by Lalrozama flew inches above the crossbar.

Jeje could have given the AIFF XI the lead in the 25th minute but he missed from the spot after he was brought down inside the area by HAL defender Liliyan Kenneth.

Jeje`s strike partner Malsawmfela, however, did not miss the scoring chance as his glancing header off a Tirthankar Sarkar cross from the right beat the goalkeeper and found the net after hitting the inside of the post.

Two minutes later, Malsawmfela could have netted his second goal but his right-footed placement after holding off the challenge from two defenders hit the right post.

AIFF doubled the lead early in the second half after Desmond Bulpin brought in central defender Raju Gaikwad, who missed the last match due to double booking, in place of Deepak Devrani.

Bikramjit Singh`s corner kick from the left flank in the 53rd minute curled into the net with HAL defender R Srikanth failing to clear the ball at the near post and goalkeeper P Pramod being blocked from the view.

Three minutes later, a Jeje header hit the crossbar to deny AIFF XI another goal.

AIFF had a narrow escape in the 87th minute when HAL striker Malemnganba Meitei`s right-footed grounder went past a host of defenders and a diving goalkeeper Jagroop Singh only to miss the left upright by inches.

One minute later, Prakash scored through a spot kick after AIFF`s Jagtar Singh, who came in place of Malsawmfela in the second half, handled the ball inside the area.

Bulpin later said that he was happy to have got full three points from the match but was not satisfied with the performance of his boys.

"We could have been better and score more goals. I think the boys have become overconfident after their first win (against Air India on December 22). Some boys did not play for the team as a whole. That will have to be remedied," said the experienced coach who had been at the helm of affairs for Philippines national side and English Championship side Queens Park Rangers.

Ask about the penalty kick missed by Jeje, he said, "He is the regular penalty taker and he used to score. But today he missed it, it happens."

Bulpin also said that the goal from the corner was not a fluke as his players used to practice aiming the near post as anything can happen near the goalmouth.


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