New Delhi [India], February 2 (ANI): Sudeva Delhi finally tasted victory in the ongoing edition of I-League here at the Ambedkar Stadium on Thursday, February 2, 2023, beating ten-man Rajasthan United FC 3-2.
Sankarlal Chakraborty's team were already looking like an improved unit when Argentine Alexis Gomez and Tajik forward Shavkati Khotam came on in the second half of their last match against Churchill Brothers. On Thursday, Chakraborty started them both, and that decision completely transformed his side. It gave them attacking intent, which had been missing all along the season. As a result, they got the first free-kick in the attacking third when the match was just six minutes old. Hero of the Match Khotam did keep it on target, but it was not enough to beat Rajasthan goalkeeper Rafique Ali Sardar.
The pressure was so telling that within eight minutes, one of Rajasthan's central defenders, Amritpal Singh, was cautioned twice to be sent off. The second yellow card was flashed by referee Joyshing Thumli, when Amritpal brought down Gomez on the edge of the penalty box.
However, instead of Sudeva capitalising on the one-man advantage, it was Rajasthan who went 1-0 up in the 19th minute. It was a lucky break for them as left-winger Atai Dzhumashev cut into the box and hardly had anyone on the other side to cross. So he went for a hopeful shot, which Sudeva defender Sukhandeep Singh unintentionally sent in. He was responsible for Rajasthan's second goal, too. It happened in the 31st minute, when Dzhumashev outran him from the left and beat goalkeeper Priyant Singh with a beautiful in-step that was curled in through the far post.
But that was only an equaliser because Seilenthang Lotjem had made it 1-1 a minute after Sukhandeep's own goal. He got a lob from behind inside the Rajasthan box, which Aidar Mambetaliev should have cleared. But he somehow overran the ball and when Rafique realised that, it was too late. Lotjem dodged past him and tapped it in with his left foot.
Lotjem's ferocity from the right would have given them the lead a couple of minutes later, had Lalbiakliana been able to put a touch on his pass across the goal. But the lead came soon enough in the 26th minute. It was a piece of individual brilliance from Gomez. The Argentine shot at goal from 25 yards out and the ball swung away from a diving Rafique, hit the inside of the post and landed into the net to make it 2-1.
Dzhumashev could only make it 2-2 with that 31st-minute strike. At times, it looked like he was playing alone against Sudeva Delhi. The Kyrgyz came close to regaining the lead for Pushpender Kundu's men just after the break. William Pauliankhum crossed from the left of the box across the goal, but an unmarked Dzhumashev went for a bicycle kick, completely missing the target.
However, Sukhandeep turned into a different footballer in the second half. Nothing could go past him. That made Dzhumashev less effective and was a major reason behind Rajasthan not finding the goal again despite an improved team performance.
Whenever either Gomez or Khotam got the ball, there was commotion in the Rajasthan defence. Eventually, they combined to make it 3-2. Gomez got one inside the penalty area with his back to the goal, and instead of trying to turn and take a shot himself, laid it for Khotam on edge of the box. He hurled in a powerful left-footer at left the corner of the net.
After this, the only worthwhile chance for Rajasthan came in the 74th minute. But centre-back Mambetaliev's header from the corner from left went just over the bar. Dzhumashev's free-kick in the 85th minute did manage to evade Sudeva's four-man wall but missed the near post by a whisker. (ANI)