Chirag United pip AIFF thanks to Junior brace
Kolkata: Debutants AIFF XI dished out a spirited display but Chirag United rode on a brace by Elijah Junior to register a 2-1 win over them as the I-League 2010-11 got off to a low-key start at an empty Salt Lake Stadium on Friday.
Man-of-the-match Junior struck in the 3rd and 42nd minutes, while AIFF XI scored through Lalrindika Ralte who caught the eyes with a brilliant 21st minute strike.
There were no spectators in sight and there was not even a banner of the premier domestic tournament that ran into its fourth edition as the sprawling stadium wore a deserted look.
Even the power connection was switch off till it was restored at halftime.
But on the field, Chirag showed some urgency.
With Junior and Johsimar upfront, the home outfit utilised the first opportunity they got as the former put them ahead 1-0 in what appeared an easy chance.
With no defender in sight, a long ball from the mid-field was capitalised by Joshimar in the right and the Brazilian gave a cross pass to Junior who tapped the ball home with a straight rightfooter.
The goal notwithstanding, AIFF XI players, who filled in the void left by disbanded Mahindra United, did not give their experienced opponents an easy outing in the middle.
There were no spectators to cheer them but Lalrindika`s beautiful 30-yard shot that brought in the equaliser for AIFF was enough to send a message to the hosts` camp.
A curling shot from the diminutive player was beyond the reach of Chirag`s experienced custodian Abhijit Mondal who dived to his right but only to see the ball fly into the net.
Seven minutes after scoring the spectacular goal, Lalrindika produced another eye-popper from a freekick but the shot hit the Chirag left post.
Lalrindika`s brilliance lasted 31 minutes as the medio pulled a muscle to be replaced by Tirthankar Sarkar.
Chirag snatched the lead just before the half-time with their forward duo again coming to their rescue.
AIFF`s Vishal Kumar failed to hold on to the ball misjudging the bounce on the artificial surface as Joshimar capitalised on it before Junior converted it easily.
The second-half saw lacklustre display from both the teams with some half-hearted attempts by Chirag United.
In the 88th minute, Joshimar fired one inside but only to be ruled off-side by referee P K Bose and the Brazilian was handed a yellow card.
In the dying moments, Raju Gaikwad almost brought on the equaliser for AIFF XI but the experienced former Dempo goalkeeper Abhijit Mondal saved Chirag the blushes with a fine goalline save as the debutants impressed on day one though ended at the losing side.