This week, Indian football fans witnessed their favorite I-League clubs back in action as they battled it out in the Super Cup qualifiers. Roundglass Punjab FC, set to make their debut in the Indian Super League next season, had already secured a spot in the tournament. Meanwhile, nine other teams competed for four more spots. Unfortunately, Rajasthan was eliminated early on in the qualifier playoffs. However, Churchill Brothers, Aizawl FC, Sreenidi Deccan FC, and Gokulam Kerala FC managed to secure their place in the main tournament.
The qualifiers for the Super Cup witnessed many high-octane games, as each one strived to secure their spot in the main tournament. As the qualifying stage draws to a close, we now eagerly await the main event, which is expected to deliver an even more thrilling spectacle. With the finest I-League and ISL clubs poised to battle it out, we look forward to a showcase of India’s best footballing talents.
NEROCA FC out-shoots Rajasthan United in the Qualifying Playoff Match
NEROCA FC locked horns with Rajasthan United FC at Manjeri in the qualifying playoff match to kick off the proceedings of the Super Cup. Rajasthan had earlier won both their matches against NEROCA in the I-League. However, this time around, the tides turned in NEROCA’s favor as they emerged victorious in the match which went down the wire, thus securing a spot in the next qualifier where they would face Sreenidi Deccan FC.
Manjeri witnessed a gripping battle between two closely-matched teams, as they finished the game in a 2-2 draw after extra-time. Rajasthan’s Laremsanga had given his team the lead in extra-time when he nodded home a brilliant cross. The RUFC dugout almost thought that the game was won when NEROCA where brought down to 10-men as Lallenmang was red-carded by the referee. Rajasthan came close to scoring their third consequently as they hit the post and the subsequent rebound was shot wide. Their missed opportunity proved costly as a spirited NEROCA equalized through Sweden Fernandes when Subham Das failed to gather the ball cleanly and the former tucked it in from close range.
The game eventually went into a nerve-wracking penalty shootout, where NEROCA’s substitute goalkeeper Soram Poerei took center stage, making three crucial saves that dented Rajasthan United’s hopes. NEROCA’s calm and composed demeanor during the shootout was critical in securing their triumph and qualifying for the next stage of the tournament.
Heartbreak for spirited NEROCA against Sreenidi Deccan
NEROCA FC’s resilience was on full display again in the first Super Cup Qualifier against Sreenidi Deccan FC. After going 2-0 down to goals from Faysal Shayesteh, whose cut-back was deflected past Subham Das by a NEROCA defender, and a David Castaneda penalty, Gyan Moyon’s team refused to give up. They pulled one back with a stunning long-range strike from Tangva Rajui which found the top right corner of the net, and then equalized through Benjamin Lupheng.
With both teams level, the game seemed destined for extra-time, but Sreenidi managed to hold off NEROCA’s late surge. Unfortunately for Moyon and his men, Deccan’s Rilwan Hassan scored twice in extra-time to seal the win for his team. NEROCA’s defence was cut open both times by the Nigerian forward rather easily. Despite the disappointment for NEROCA, Sreenidi’s early dominance in the match earned them a well-deserved victory.
Gokulam crush Mohammedan FC
The 5-2 scoreline after 90 minutes seemed unlikely at least till the one hour mark as the match between Gokulam Kerala and Mohammedan looked like an evenly matched contest. Gokulam Kerala took the lead thanks to Omar Ramos’ individual brilliance, as he dribbled past the Kolkata team’s defence and slotted the ball in comfortably. However, Mohammedan equalized soon after through Abiola Dauda, and both teams went into the dressing rooms with a 1-1 scoreline.
At the start of the second half, Gokulam Kerala’s Sourav scored after just two minutes as he found the Mohammedan defence napping and scored cutting in from the left flank. However, Dauda equalized yet again as a failed clearance landed right to him and he made no mistake. What followed next was a complete domination by Gokulam Kerala. Farshad Noor ran down the right flank and scored from a tight angle, giving his team the lead once again. Thahir Zaman then scored a brilliant goal, capping off his individual run with the ball at the back of the net. Abdul Hakku concluded the rout with an easy tap-in, bringing the final score to 5-2 in favor of Gokulam Kerala.
Aizawl edge past TRAU FC
Before the match, TRAU FC were viewed as the favorites due to their impressive head-to-head record against Aizawl FC, having remained unbeaten in their last five encounters. TRAU had a successful Hero I-League season, finishing fourth, while Aizawl struggled and ended in seventh place under Caetano Pinho. However, during the game, both the teams struggled to find a way through each other’s defenses, and neither could challenge the opposition goalkeepers well enough.
Aizawl’s Chhantea Sailo managed to test the TRAU goalkeeper Lunkhominlenmang Jedidi around the one hour mark, who saved his shot but could not prevent Ivan Veras from scoring on the rebound. The Belarusian’s goal breathed life back into the game. TRAU had their own chances to equalize, particularly from two well-taken set-pieces, but Aizawl’s goalkeeper Hriatpuia and their defence stood firm and prevented TRAU from scoring. Veras’ solitary goal was enough as Aizawl successfully went through to the next stage.
Churchill Brothers decimate Real Kashmir FC
Manjeri bore witness to an exceptional performance by Ansumana Kromah, who netted four goals and secured Churchill Brothers’ passage to the next stage. Real Kashmir found themselves overwhelmed by Mateus Costa’s team, giving away two penalties during the crunch match. The game was entirely one-sided, with Churchill dominating the proceedings.
Their opening goal came via Martin Chavez’s penalty, followed by two more goals from Kromah in the first 45 minutes. Chavez was instrumental in creating the third goal as well, with Kromah expertly nodding in his rebounded shot after it was saved by the Kashmir goalkeeper. The Goan side continued their first-half display in the second half, with Kromah adding two more goals to complete his tally of four for the night. Kashmir’s hapless defense was left watching in awe at the Liberian’s brilliance. The icing on the cake was Sardor Jakhonov’s goal, sealing Churchill’s comprehensive 6-0 victory.
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