A top-notch finishing from the World Cupper Carlos Hernandes helped Prayag United return to winning form by beating the league leaders Dempo SC 1-0 in the 14th round of the I-League at the Municipal Stadium in Kalyani on Friday.

Costa Rican midfielder Hernandes scored from a spectacular free-kick in the final minute of the regulation time to turn the tide in favour of Prayag United, who picked up their first win after successive losses in the previous two rounds. The goal happened after Dempo were reduced to 10 men with the ejection of their defender Debabrata Roy with two bookings, in the 86th minute.

The first half was fought mostly on equal terms with both sides checking their offensive intent and focusing more on midfield control. Prayag winger CK Vineeth saw his 23rd minute effort coming off the cross-piece. That was the closest any of the sides could progress in the opening half in terms of attack. Things turned more lively after the break.

Dempo, which missed the services of three of their regulars including the Japanese striker Ryuiji Seuoka, was justifiably contained in their offensive intent.

Prayag United played a more open game after the break and found a few openings. Dempo goalkeeper Subhasish Roy Chowdhury had a tough time under the bar as the host repeatedly sought the goal route. Subhasish made two fines saves in the 52nd and 55th minutes when Hernandes and Shankar Oraon on target with powerful efforts from top of the box.

The Dempo custodian saved one from the line when Ranty came close to finding the net in the 60th minute. He went on to save another effort from Prayag United substitute Lester Fernandes, who fired a fine curling shot just to find it cleared by the Dempo goalkeeper.

After saving a nice free-kick from Hernandes in the 78th minute, Subhasish finally surrendered in the final minute when the Costa Rican produced an even sharper effort.

Dempo drew in more pressure losing Debabrata, who received his second booking following a foul on Shankar Oraon, in the 86th minute. Hernandes, who earned a free-kick just outside the Dempo box after being brought down by opposition captain  Clifford Miranda, finally succeeded in finding the net when he sent a low, sharply swinging shot that cleared the Dempo wall and found its way home through the top angle. 

With today’s loss, Dempo remain on 26 points and have dropped two places behind table leaders Churchill Bros (28 pts), Pune FC (28 pts) & East Bengal (27 pts).

Dempo SC’s next match will be away against Shillong Lajong in Sikkim on the 13th January. 

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