| Carlos Hernandez |
Calcutta: Carlos Hernandez’s return signalled a revival of fortunes for Prayag United SC, as they rode on his solitary strike to overpower table-toppers Dempo SC in the I-League Round XIV encounter in Kalyani, on Friday.
In another match, Churchill Brothers thr-ashed Lajong FC 6-0. Akram Moghrabi struck a brace while Steven Dias, Henry Antchouet, Ajay Singh and Beto scored the other goals.
It was a much-needed victory for United SC, as they were plummeting down the standings with as many as five losses from their previous six appearances.
Besides, they again proved that they are an extremely dangerous proposition on being a full-strength line-up which does give warning signals to the top-four in the league table. The win takes United SC up to fifth with 20 points, while Dempo — rooted at 26 points — are pushed down to No. 2.
To be fair to Dempo, the availability of four of their regulars — Anthony Pereira, Ryuiji Sueoka, Peter Carvalho and Creson Antao — would certainly have provided them with a far better chance. However, the visitors also lacked someone, who could curl it in like Hernandez.
Returning to action after being laid low by a groin injury, the Costa Rican, along with Lalkamal Bhowmick, K. Asif and Sankar Oraon, gained complete control of the midfield that simply negated the threats associated with Dempo’s passing football.
Precisely, Hernandez’s presence in the atta-cking third made United SC appear a cut above Dempo. Further, being reduced to 10 men after side-back Debabrata Roy was red-carded — booked for the second time after a foul against Oraon — five minutes before regulation time, Dempo only allowed their opposition with the liberty to go flat out towards the end.
United SC’s strive finally bore fruit in the 89th minute when Hern-andez’s world-class free-kick found the target, leaving Dempo custodian Subhasish Roy Chowdhury stunned.
Keeping his fabulous strike aside, Hernandez also deserved credit for having earned the free-kick. He foxed a couple of Dempo players with superb dodges, tricking Clifford Miranda into committing a foul near the edge of the box.
The foul, then, turned out to be fatal for Dempo.