I-League: Punjab survive late scare to beat Arrows 2-1

RoundGlass Punjab moved up to the second spot on the I-League standings after beating Indian Arrows 2-1 on Tuesday at the Kalyani Municipal Stadium.

A brace from debutant Papa Diawara ensured that Punjab picked up three points despite a late goal by Vellington Fernandes.

The Arrows made as many as six changes to their squad after their last defeat against Real Kashmir. Head coach Shanmugan Venkatesh brought in Vibin Mohanan, Harsh Patre, Gurkirat Singh, Vellington Fernandes, Shreyas Ketkar, Ahaan Prakash and Gurpanthjeet Singh.

Punjab, on the other hand, made two changes from their 2-0 victory over Tiddim Road Athletic Union (TRAU) Football Club. Curtis Fleming brought in Samad Ali Mallick in defence while handing Papa Diawara his debut.

Arrows kept Punjab away from their box by holding on to the ball in midfield during the opening exchanges of the match. Punjab came close to scoring only in the 16th minute as Chencho Gyeltshen attempted an overhead kick from a long throw-in with Arrows goalkeeper Ahaan Prakash off his line. However, the effort was cleared by the Arrows.

Arrows captain Harsh Patre then managed to take a shot but could only find Punjab goalkeeper Kiran Kumar Limbu. A minute later, Punjab replied with an opportunity of their own, but Aahaan Prakash was alert and reached a lobbed pass through the centre before Diawara.

The opener came in the 35th minute as Diawara brought down Aphaoba Singh’s cross before smashing it past Prakash to give Punjab the lead.

Punjab immediately returned looking for the second goal, but RV Hormipam could not turn his volley from Joseba Beitia’s cross onto the goal.

They keptlooking for the second goal towards the end of the first half but Arrows managed to fend the attacks away and the teams went into half time with Punjab leading 1-0.

Diawara almost doubled Punjab’s lead in the 48th minute, but his volley bounced just wide of the far post. The Senegalese striker almost turned provider in the 52nd minute, but his cross across the area for Gyeltshen was intercepted by Prakash.

Punjab finally got their second goal in the 56th minute. Beitia found Diawara with a cross, and the latter powered his header from close range and doubled his side’s lead. Beitia almost added a third from distance, but his long-ranger was just wide of the goal.

The Fleming-coached side then called on the experience of their players as they slowed down the game. However, a number of attacking changes made by Arrows altered the flow of the game. On the 85th minute, Prakash made another brilliant save to deny Aphaoba Singh.

A couple of minutes later, Vellington Fernandes reached substitute Abdul Hannan’s cut-back cross, to pull a goal back. Parthib Gogoi created a chance for himself deep into added time, but his long ranger was safely handled by Limbu.