Dr T Ao Memorial Football Tournament: Champions Mizoram edge Sikkim 4-3 in thriller
Defending champions Mizoram turned on the style when it mattered the most as they scripted an exciting come-from-behind 4-3 victory over last year’s runners-up Sikkim in a Group B match of the fourth Dr T Ao Memorial Football Tournament being played at the JN Stadium in Shillong, Meghalaya.
The vociferous Mizoram fans were rooting for their team as they took on Sikkim but what unfolded early on was bit of a disappointment for them.
Sikkim, who lost to Mizoram 8-9 in sudden death in the finals of the 2012 edition, struck in the very first minute of play. Tshering Zangpo Tamang made a fine run upfront and stole the ball from a Mizoram defender before slamming it home.
The opening goal did shake the reigning champions, but they regrouped quickly and started to weave attacks. Mizoram showed a lot of conviction in their attacks as Sikkim goalkeeper Nim Tenzing Lepcha had busy day in office.
The sustained attacks of Mizoram bore fruit when an unmarked Lal Bia Khula received an aerial ball and entered the box unleashing a power-packed shot to the right of goalie Nim Tenzing Lepcha in the 28th minute.
Mizoram’s joy was short-lived as Sikkim once again pulled ahead when Tshering Zangpo Tamang scored his second goal. He dodged past his marker and neatly slotted the ball past the Mizoram custodian J Van Lal Hriata.
Sikkim lead 2-1 at half-time.
Mizoram pressed hard for the equalizer in the second half but a resolute Sikkim defence foiled all their efforts.
Mizoram’s woes were compounded when Sikkim took a 3-1 lead in the 58th minute. Sikkim were awarded a free kick from 12 yards out of the box after a Mizoram player indulged in handball. Skipper Milan Lepcha converted the free kick beating the Sikkim goalkeeper all ends up.
Lal Bia Khula kept Mizoram in the contest, reducing the deficit in the 71st minute.
The goal reenergized the Mizo boys, who dominated possession which soon translated into another equaliser goal when Lal Nun Mawia bulged the Sikkim net being by Lal Bia Khula with a fine cross from the right.
Two quick goals in eight minutes made Mizoram believe that they can go for broke. The Mizoram fans went delirious with the way their side came out fighting after trailing 1-3 at one stage.
They were celebrating big-time when Mawia gave them the match-winner in the dying moments (88th minute) heading home a quickly taken thrown-in, which caught the Sikkim defence napping.
In another match, Manipur played out a 1–1 draw with Tripura. Both teams created a lot of chances but failed to break the deadlock with the first half ending goalless.
Manipur took the lead in the 62nd minute through Md.Sohail. Tripura found the equaliser in the 75th minute when Sukanta Jamatia bulged the Manipur net making the most of a cross from the left.