Calcutta: When Prayag United SC’s Bello Rasaq was shown the red card in the 21st minute of play, the central defender was not the only one who walked out of the match… It appeared as if Air India, too, had received the marching orders as they completely went out of the match from that very moment.
Strange? Well, so was the 5-1 scoreline, considering the fact that United were down to 10 men for about 70 minutes. But to be honest, if Air India were guilty of not exploiting the advantage, much credit should also go to the United SC players who played a neat game.
Ranty Martins commands huge respect in Indian football and on Sunday afternoon, at the Salt Lake Stadium, he showed why he is one of the best strikers around.
He hit a hat-trick and assisted in Asif K’s goal to be named the Man of the Match. The other goal for the winners was scored by Vineeth CK.
United took the lead in the 13th minute when an unmarked Ranty headed in a Shylo Malswamtluanga cross. But after a few minutes, Bello was expelled from the match for a foul on Air India’s Ezeh Henry. It was a dubious decision, but referee Pratap Singh looked confident.
The incident jolted United to some extent. That, perhaps, was partly a reason why Sangram Mukherjee failed to stop the resultant free-kick from Micky Fernandes. The shot was well-taken, but at the same time was stoppable.
With the score 1-1, and United having a man less on the field, one expected Godfred Pereira’s team to go for the kill. Unfortunately, a defensive mindset killed them instead.
United coach Sanjoy Sen was quick to react to the situation, swapping a striker — Mohammed Rafique — with an extra defender — Anupam Sarkar. The move worked wonders.
In the 33rd and the 58th minutes, Ranty’s header and a scorching left-footer, respectively, took the match beyond Air India’s reach. Then, Asif, latching on to a pass from Ranty, in the 66th minute, found the net with a long-ranger to make it 4-1. In the 81st minute, Vineeth had all the time in the world to slot the ball in from the left-edge of the box for United’s fifth goal.
To add a footnote, meant for the Mohun Bagan, who play United SC on Friday, there’s just one message: Beware!