11th October 2020: We are in the second day of the Hero I-league Qualifiers 2020. The first match of the day was between Mohammedan Sporting Club and ARA FC. The Black Panthers easily defeated the team from Ahmedabad with four goals to one. Willis Plaza gets his first in the black and white jersey, where the Nepalese Ronaldo Abhishek Rijal scored a brace and Sk. Faiaz scored in the dying minutes of the game while ARA got one back from an own goal from Saiful Rahaman.
Yan Law named a few changes in the Starting XI with Eze Kingsley out with an injury and they dropped all Minerva related players as allegations of match-fixing came out. On the other side, Vivek Nagul led ARA FC fielded three U-22 players who were playing their first match of the tournament. The sun was straight above the head in Salt Lake Stadium and the temperature kept on rising as the game went on.
Keeping aside all allegation of match-fixing, the Black Panthers looked fresh and were looking for an early goal. They kept on pressurizing ARA’s defense with Willis Plaza and Abhishek Rijal leading the attack. Sk. Faiaz and Vanlalbiaa Chhangte were superb down the flanks for Mohammedan Sporting Club and kept the two side backs of ARA FC busy. In the 13th minute of the match, Vanlalbiaa’s marauding run on the right flank helped Willis Plaza to score his first goal of the match and gave the Black Panthers an early lead, exactly what they were looking for. The inexperienced defenders looked sloppy in the first half as in the 21st minute of the game Abhishek Rijal scored the second after a run down from the left flanks by Suraj Rawat.
Mohammedan looked confident and were not giving out easy possessions to the opponent whereas on the other side ARA FC looked puzzled in the hot and humid condition as they were running out of positions. Mohammedan increased their lead at the stroke of half time after a good link-up play from Hira-Faiaz and then passed towards Chhangte, who left it for Abhishek who slammed it into the goal bringing his second of the day.
ARA FC started the second half after deciding not to concede goals, rather than reducing the margin of defeat so that they will still stay in the hunt for the I-League. Though ARA FC started positively, in the 51st minute of the game, Willis Plaza got a chance on the other side of the ground as he races it in and took a shot but Ipratip Das’s sheer reflex denied Mohammedan to score their fourth goal. Two minutes later, ARA FC got one back in the match as Sreekuttan charged in and played a ball towards his fellow mate, but Saiful Rahaman’s tired legs tried to clear it away but it got a deflection towards his own goal, which Priyant Singh didn’t see coming.
Both the teams injected few fresh legs into the match, as the home team continued their search for the fourth goal. On the other side ARA FC tried to reduce the deficit. In the 88th minute, the substitute Shamshad Ali intercepted a ball from an ARA FC defender and passed onto Sk. Faiaz who calmly pushed the ball into the far post and made the scoreline 4-1, which helped Mohammedan to sit at the top of the table with six points and a healthy goal difference of four.
The Black Panthers will play against their city rivals Bhawanipore FC at Kalyani Stadium on 16th October.