Indian Arrows trumped former champions and hosts Mohun Bagan AC 3-1 in a 12th Hero I-League clash at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan (VYBK) in Kolkata to conclude their second season in the top-flight league with six wins, in what has been a stellar display of football by All India Football Federation (AIFF)’s developmental side.
During the course of the campaign, Indian Arrows have beaten defending champions Minverva Punjab FC, Shillong Lajong (twice), Gokulam Kerala, and former champions Aizawl FC and Mohun Bagan.
Both coaches Khalid Jamil and Floyd Pinto went for wholesale changes at the start of the game, making seven and six respectively, in a fixture essentially between two sides assured of a mid-table finish.
The first half did not see the game reach great heights but the young Arrows certainly looked the more enterprising, creating several openings to score.
The home team, though, took the lead in the 17th minute through Azharuddin Mallick after a move initiated by Sony Norde, saw the Hiatian winger play off Henry Kisseka, run in and cross from the left of the Arrows box. Kisseka missed the first bit, but the talented Under-22 youngster was at hand to slot it home.
The Arrows hit back in the 28th minute when an Anwar Ali free-kick was fumbled by keeper Ricardo Cardozo, before Abhijeet Sarkar struck off the rebound.
As the players came on for the second half, Mohun Bagan coach Khaleed Jamil brought on Cameroonian striker Dipanda Dicka, expressing clear intentions. He also replaced goal-scorer Mallick with Egyptian playmaker Omar Elhussieny.
However, Floyd Pinto’s team was not to be bogged down and after initial Bagan forays, it was the Indian Arrows who went ahead in the 74th minute after a brilliantly-crafted move, executed with pace.
Substitute Neenthoi, who had come in barely two minutes earlier, played the pass from midfield finding Boris in space on the right. The right-wing back made a purposeful run into the box, looked up and found an onrushing Rahul KP with the cutback. Rahul made no mistake with a calm and composed finish.
The young guns secured the three points in injury time. In a seemingly harmless defensive position, keeper Cordozo, who had a forgetful day, came out of his area to clear the ball with his head straight onto a waiting Rohit Danu, who slotted from distance into an empty goal.
Both Bagan and Arrows remain in sixth and seventh positions, respectively, with the gap between the two now narrowed to five points.