Dr. T Ao Memorial Tournament: Mizoram pull the plug on Tripura, Manipur rally to pip Sikkim
Reigning champions Mizoram brightened their hopes of reaching the semifinals of the 4th Dr. T Ao Memorial Football Tournament after they sailed past Tripura 3-0 in a Group B clash at the JN Stadium in Shillong, Meghalaya.
The red brigade have now climbed to the top of Group B with two wins from as many matches. Tripura, on the other hand, had drawn their first game against Manipur 1-1, and would now have to beat Sikkim by a handsome margin in their final league tie if they are to harbor hopes of making it to the last four stage.
Mizoram controlled midfield play for the most part, while Tripura failed to profit from whatever chances they created. The opening half failed to yield any goals.
Both teams went all out in pursuit of breaking the stalemate. Mizoram went ahead when F. Lalrinpuia rifled in a piledriver in the 64th minute.
Tripura tried hard to stay in the match but Mizoram were no way going to let their guard down. Tripura was literally put out of the contest when Lal Lawnzuala struck for Mizoram in the 83rd minute.
The match witnessed two minutes of stoppage time and Mizoram made Tripura’s cup of woes full when Lal Chhuan Tlianga bulged the net in the 63rd minute.
In another Group B match, former champions Manipur, who were locked in a 1-1 draw with Tripura in their opening tie, clawed their way back from a goal down to upstage Sikkim 3-1 to log full points, which puts them in a good position to make it to the semifinals.
It was Sikkim who showed more conviction in their attacks early on, even as Manipur were forced to soak up the pressure.
Sikkim’s early promise translated into a goal when Bir Bahadur Pradhan unleashed a rasping right-footer, making the most of a cross from the right flank in the 16th minute
Manipur earned a penalty in the 37th minute, but Md Sohail’s effort was well saved by Nim Tenzing Lepcha.
Sikkim held on to the 1-0 lead at half-time.
Manipur looked a transformed unit in the second half. They restored parity in the 51st minute through O Pitlar. They doubled the lead through Md Imran Khan who dodged past a bevy of defenders to find the back of Sikkim’s net.
Naoton put the game beyond Sikkim when he notched up the third goal in the 76th minute.
Down 1-3, and with fourteen minutes to go, Sikkim needed to pull something out of the ordinary, but Manipur were good enough to nullify all such plans in the dying moments.