The opening day of the 35th Federation Cup saw 11 goals in four matches with underdogs Eagles FC, Bhowanipore and United Sikkim performing well. Here is Sportskeeda’s review.
Group A: Winning start for Churchill Brothers but Pune held
I-League holders Churchill Brothers are the early leaders of this group following their 2-1 success over United SC and Pune’s shock 1-1 stalemate with second division outfit Eagles FC. Churchill Brothers were without their technical director Subhash Bhowmick but they started well and exposed United SC’s high defensive line. The Kolkata side didn’t press at all in the early stages and that allowed the Goan outfit to get behind the United SC defence easily and score twice through Abdel Hamid Shabana and Balwant Singh. Much the like the I-League meeting between the sides, United SC pulled one back through Ranti Martins and threatened to stage a remarkable comeback but their finishing was wasteful as Churchill Brothers held on for a priceless win.
In the evening kickoff, Pune were overwhelming favourites to beat hosts Eagles but the Kerala club looked lively in the first half and had some promising moments with their final ball being the only disappointment. As expected Pune were lacking the cutting edge in the final third due to the absence of a genuine centre forward but the Red Lizards were gifted a goal by Eagles’ young keeper Jagroop Singh. Pune though didn’t built on that lead as they dominated possession but never threatened to score further. At the other end, Koko Sakibo equalised for Eagles after a solo run that was well aided by a series of fortunate ricochets. But the result was a true reflection of the game and now Pune’s hopes of reaching the semis are in jeopardy.
Churchill Brothers 2-1 United SC
Pune FC 1-1 Eagles FC
Group D: Dempo and Mohammedan record narrow wins
While both Group A matches at Kochi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium had empty stands, Manjeri’s MDS Complex for both Group D encounters was jam-packed with thousands outside the venue as well. Dempo and Mohammedan Sporting won as expected but they were certainly made to work for it. The Goan club were trailing at the break against tournament debutants Bhowanipore with young Dipendu Dowary giving the modest Kolkata outfit the lead with a brilliant left-footed curler. Dempo toiled in the second half as well but eventually their superior attacking quality made the difference as goals from substitute Alwyn George and Brazilian Beto saw them triumph 2-1.
Dempo’s difficulties in the group’s first game opened the door for Mohammedan Sporting to gain an advantage by beating United Sikkim heavily but that didn’t happen as the Bhaichung Bhutia-owned club put up a great fight. The Kolkata giants couldn’t break the deadlock in the first period but the club’s top scorer Josimar opened the scoring after the hour mark and then set up Penn Orji for the second. It looked like Mohammedan would register a comfortable win but Somide Adelaja pulled one back for the Sikkim club to ensure a nervy finish for Sanjoy Sen’s side. The opening round was a big wakeup call for both the I-League clubs of this group so clearly they can’t take anything for granted on matchday two.
Dempo 2-1 Bhowanipore
Mohammedan Sporting 2-1 United Sikkim
Foreigner: Josimar (Mohammedan Sporting) – The Brazilian is the joint top scorer in the I-League with nine and he made a perfect start in the Federation Cup as well by scoring one and creating another against United Sikkim.
Indian: Lenny Rodrigues (Churchill Brothers) – The India international’s form has dipped in the last few months but the central midfielder was back to his best against United SC as he won several 50-50 challenges and gave great protection to an all-India backline.Published 15 Jan 2014, 00:18 IST