Gangtok: Fresh from their IFA Shield triumph, United SC continued their winning momentum with a 1-0 victory over United Sikkim FC in a 21st round I-league fixture at the Paljor Stadium here today.
Nigerian Ranty Martins made all the difference with his 25th minute strike in a match coach Eelco Schattorie rested key players like Carlos Hernandez and Gourmangi Singh.
United SC moved to fourth spot with 34 points from 21 matches, while the Bhiachung Bhutia-owned side remained in the relegation zone, lying on the 13th place with 12 points from 21 matches.
The Kolkata club, which won the first leg with a collosal 10-1 margin, were not in their prime but Martins struck through a beautiful through ball from Kayne Vincent that caught United Sikkim defense napping.
Martins calmly lobbed the ball over goalkeeper Rakshit Kumar to score the only goal of the match.
The leading I-League scorer should have added another goal to his tally but he lashed his volley over the United Sikkim goal from close range.
In between, United Sikkim played some enterprising football and controlled the midfield to create some good goal-scoring chances.
A strong header from striker Nurudeen Salau early in the first half was wonderfully tipped over the bar by Prayag United SC goalkeeper Subrata Pal.
Towering striker Pablo Rodriquez Aracil won a lot of long balls creating chances for his teammates.
Nurudeen also came close to scoring twice in second half but was denied by Paul.
With 20-odd minutes left, Schattorie brought in Gourmangi and Hernandez.
The inclusion of these two senior players shut out United Sikkim attacks as the newly-crowned Shield champions returned with three full points.
"I did not field a full-strength team today as we recently played IFA Shield final. We have played some eight matches in the past 20 days and players need recovery time. Today’s game was not our best match. But we are certainly happy with the result," said Schattorie.
United Sikkim coach Nathan Hall praised his players for their determined performance.
"The players were outstanding and played with the right attitude," he said.
I was very emotional on the podium and I broke down into tears because this was my first Asian Games after missing the two previous Asian Games, partly because of a doping allegation in 2006 when I was innocent.