April 22nd 2015 Fatorda, Goa – In what can be best described as a wonderful advert for Indian football, Dempo SC took on Royal Wahingdoh FC in the Hero I-League. The North East outfit were looking to keep up the pressure on league leaders Mohun Bagan while Dempo SC were looking to bounce back after a disappointing outing against Pune FC.
What followed was a see-saw battle between two quality football teams with contrasting fortunes this season. Dempo SC supporters have seen their team play some of the most attacking football this season, yet they have struggled to convert their dominance into victories. In contrast, Santosh Kashyap’s side has been as exciting going forward and have been the surprise package this season as the main challengers to Mohun Bagan in the title race. All this made for a wonderfully attacking display of football.
Dempo SC were the first to come to the party when they took the lead in the 26th minute. Haroon Amiri, on his return to the squad put in a peach of a cross from Dempo’s right wing which found Sushil Kumar Singh in space and the Dempo forward made absolutely no mistake powering his header into the back of the Wahingdoh net. Dempo continued to assert themselves all through the first half however against the run of play, Royal Wahingdoh drew level literally seconds before the half time whistle. Wahingdoh received a free kick on the right wing and Naoba’s cross wasn’t pick by the Dempo defence as Theobald rose to connect with his head. However his shot rebounded off the post and fell kindly to Loveday Okechukwu who tapped the ball in from close range to draw the visitors level.
The second half began much like the first with Dempo in the ascendance. Sushil Kumar looked to add to his tally with another header however he was only able to put it wide after good work down the left by Holicharan. Not too long after Holicharan found himself through on goal after out pacing Okechukwu and unleashed a venomous strike on goal. Thankfully for Wahingdoh, Prem Singh got himself behind all of it to collect the ball. The inability of the Dempo strikers to convert the chances had the support calling out for star striker Tolgay Ozbey who, was on the bench, but hasn’t featured much this season owing to injuries. And in the 63rd minute the supporters got their wish as the Australian replaced Sushil Kumar Singh. The ensuing minutes saw the game take on a stop start rhythm as both teams exchanged possession.
The final 10 minutes though was all action as Dempo SC took the lead once again through Ozbey in the 82nd minute who found himself on the end of a great cross by Francis Fernandes. The Goan lad made great progress down Dempo’s right wing and after avoiding challenges from two Wahingdoh defenders, put the ball in for Ozbey to tuck home his first goal of the game and make it 2 in 2 games since his return from injury. However as the Dempo faithful celebrated, Royal Wahingdoh had other plans. The never say die attitude of Santosh Kashyap’s young wards once again drew them level within 2 minutes of Ozbey’s goal. Captain Densill Theobald found himself in space on the left side of Dempo’s penalty area and tucked the ball away from an almost impossible angle to once again draw the North East team level in the 85th minute.
Dempo SC had once again found themselves in an all too familiar position. Looking at picking up just a point when they should have had all three. But all that changed in the 93rd minute. Francis Fernandes once again put in a wonderful cross from Dempo’s right wing as he had been doing all evening. His cross found Ozbey in space, and the Australian calmly controlled the ball on his chest and slammed the ball into the back of the net to steal a much deserved victory for the Goan giants.
A fitting result in the end as it finished Dempo SC 3 – 2 Royal Wahingdoh FC.