Dempo juggernaut rolls on, move six points clear at the top

Dempo Sports Club stayed on course to win their fifth I-League crown after scoring a comfortable 2-0 win over Pailan Arrows at the Salt Lake stadium in the final match before the League goes into a 40 day break. The win moved Dempo to a commanding six point lead over second placed Mohun Bagan and with only six rounds left to be played Dempo would fancy their chances of winning an unprecedented fifth title.

Coach Mauricio Afonso made one forced change from the line-up that started against Pune FC. Debabrata Roy out with a double booking was replaced by Valeriano Rebello. Samir Naik started at left back while Valeriano started in his customary right back position.

The match started with a flurry of yellow cards that saw Clifford Miranda, Bikramjit Singh and Prathamesh Maulingkar being booked in the first couple of minutes by the referee. Clifford was booked for lashing out at a defender, Bikramjit got the yellow for a tackle from behind on Densill Theobald while Prathamesh got into the referee’s books for a similar offense. The game failed to burst into life with both teams unable to string passes together. The uneven bounce at the Salt Lake stadium didn’t help Dempo to play their free flowing football. The first chance of the match fell for Anthony Pereira in the 8th minute but he put his free header wide of the crossbar. The Arrows central defensive pairing of Prathamesh Maulingkar and Raiv Ghosh played fairly well in the first half to deny any real scoring opportunities for the Dempo forwards- Ranti Martins and Koko Sakibo. In the 23rd minute after some nice passes by the Dempo midfield, Densill Theobald found himself in space but his shot was blocked by the Pailan defense. Ten minutes later a nice run by Koko inside the box found Densill whose initial shot was blocked and the rebound fell to Anthony Pereira who was in some space but he could not get his shot on target. But the game kicked into life in the 34th minute when Pailan Arrows were reduced to ten men after goalkeeper Naveen Kumar was shown the red card for a feet raised lunge at Koko Sakibo outside the penalty area. The referee deemed him to be the last man and promptly sent the keeper off with a straight red card. Sayan Roy came in as the replacement goalkeeper while defender Pritam was sacrificed. Dempo nearly made their numerical advantage count two minutes before the break but Koko Sakibo missed a sitter from handshaking distance. After being fed in brilliantly by Densill, Valeriano on the overlap put in a peach of a ball for Koko who only had the goalkeeper to beat with a tap in but he spooned his shot over the bar.

The second half started with Dempo having greater possession and making their numerical advantage count. But the first chance of the half fell to Allwyn Goerge who raced past three defenders and just as he was about to unleash a shot, he was dispossessed by Cresson Antao. Dempo finally took the lead in the 53rd minute when Valeriano Rebello put in a nice floating ball that caught the entire Pailan defense napping. Ranti Martins found himself unmarked and headed home past Sayan Roy to give Dempo the lead. Dempo began to dominate proceedings there after, being a goal up and a man to the good. Densill Theobald was more authoritative in midfield and began to dictate play. However the game sealing second goal continued to elude the former champions. Dempo finally made the result safe in the 83rd minute when Ranti Martins latched on to a pass from Anthony Pereira, controlled it with a touch and slammed it back past the keeper to score his 21st goal of the season and give Dempo all three points. Yususke Kato made his first appearance for Dempo, coming on in the last five minutes for Clifford Miranda. Pailan Arrows are still to win in the League and have not scored a goal in 360 minutes of play.

Dempo now have a six point lead at the top and are in with a real chance of winning their fifth I-league crown.