Calcutta: Deportivo Saprissa advanced to the IFA Shield semi-final as group toppers with a 3-1 win over United Sikkim FC, on Tuesday, here, at the Salt Lake Stadium.
The Costa Rican side will lock horns with Prayag United SC in the first semi-final, set to be held in Kalyani this Friday. Saprissa’s victory also confirms that East Bengal and Mohun Bagan will renew their rivalry in the second semi-final, on Sunday.
But for the moment, focus should be on the Central Americans who look to be getting stronger as the competition progresses.
They were a tad scrappy during the initial stages against United Sikkim in their final Group B game.
United Sikkim, who have been the punching bags of the tournament so far, took fair advantage of Saprissa’s scrappiness and even took the lead when their Spanish striker Pablo Rodriguez finished to perfection off a minus from Ashish Chetri in the 22nd minute.
The 0-1 deficit seemed to spur Saprissa on as they restored parity a quarter of an hour later when Walter Centeno converted a penalty. Substitute Junior Delgado was tripped inside the penalty area by Chetri, which prompted referee Tanmoy Dhar to point to the dreaded spot straightaway.
Having levelled the scores, Saprissa bombarded the rival defence with attacks one after another only to be denied on several occasions by United Sikkim ’keeper Rakshit Kumar.
Joshua Fernandes was within touching distance to clinch the lead for Saprissa seven minutes into the second session. But his grounder was deflected to safety by Rakshit. Around five minutes later, the goalkeeper was in action again, ensuring Centeno’s left-footer couldn’t go past him.
However, Saprissa finally got through one, as Rakshit was undone by a superb placement from Felipe Chavez Ramirez, off Centeno’s set-up, which put the Costa Ricans on the ascendancy.