Staff Reporter –
Mumbai Kenkre FC’s wait for their first points of the new year came to an end with a stunning 2-1 victory over second-place Sreenidi Deccan FC at the Cooperage Stadium in Mumbai on Monday, January 23, 2023.
Deadlocked until 75 minutes, the game sprang to life when Awal Mohammed’s handball gifted Mumbai Kenkre a penalty, which Aman Gaikwad duly converted. Sreenidi Deccan’s response was swift, as Louis Ogana equalised within a couple of minutes. But the hosts regained their advantage when Ahmed Faiz Khan deftly headed in the match-winner in the last minute of regulation time.
Mumbai Kenkre, down in 11th place and four points away from safety, started the brighter of the two sides, and should have taken the lead in the 16th minute. Aman Gaikwad drilled an inch-perfect first-time cross into the six-yard box for Ibrahim Ouattara, who couldn’t find the composure to score his first goal of the season.
After that let-off, Sreenidi Deccan solidified themselves at the back and took control of the contest, launching wave after wave of attacks on the hosts’ goal. A few minutes before half-time, Arijit Bagui’s cross from the right found an unmarked Rosenberg Gabriel, who sent a stinging header on target only for Kenkre custodian Padam Chettri to tip it over the bar with a brilliant reflex save.
With the league’s top spot on the line, the visitors came out all-guns blazing in the second half. But the Mumbai Kenkre defence, who had leaked six goals in the last two games, looked to have learned from their past mistakes and held their own against the fast-paced Sreenidi offence.
Coach Akhil Kothari did see his side make rare forays inside the opposition penalty area, and got their reward on one such occasion. Sreenidi’s otherwise reliable centre-back clumsily handled the ball, giving Mumbai Kenkre a golden opportunity to break the deadlock in the 75th minute. 22-year-old Aman Gaikwad stepped up and netted his third goal of the season.
However, substitutes Ramhlunchhunga and Louis Ogana combined to bring the Deccan Warriors back into the game. The Indian sent a looping cross at the far post for the Nigerian, who found the equaliser with a thumping volley.
As Sreenidi Deccan pumped numbers forward in search of a late winner, the hosts exploited their gaps behind, winning a free-kick in a crucial position in the dying stages of the match. Lalhmangaihsanga’s tricky delivery caught the visitors’ defence asleep as they failed to clear their lines, allowing the ball to fall for Ahmed Faiz Khan, who had sneaked into the six-yard box. The defender scored with a clever header across goal to spark jubilant celebrations from his teammates.