In the battle of the relegation-threatened clubs, Salgaocar defeated Aizawl FC 0-1, with the help of Scottish striker Darryl Duffy’s 32nd minute free-kick to earn three points. With the win at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Aizawl on Monday, Salgaocar moved out of the bottom of the table to fifth.
With the I-League heading to a close finish both at the top and at the bottom, relegation-threatened clubs, Aizawl and Salgaocar locked horns against each other hoping for all three points to secure their place in the league next season. Aizawl went into the match at seventh in the table with 13 points, after making a comeback of sorts in the last three matches, defeating defending champions Mohun Bagan and drawing with Sporting Clube de Goa. Salgaocar, on the other hand, went into the match after being at the last position in the table, with goal difference separating them from Mumbai FC and Aizawl. The Goan side have been on a four-match unbeaten streak defeating East Bengal, Shillong Lajong and drawing with Mumbai and DSK Shivajians. In their last encounter at the Tilak Maidan in Goa in January, both teams had shared points with the game ending in a 1-1 draw.
The home side, who have been a breath of fresh air in the league with their attacking performances, once again started the match with their free flowing attack swarming the Salgaocar defence. Coached by former Royal Wahingdoh gaffer Santosh Kashyap, Salgaocar opted for a risky game of sitting back and allowing Aizawl to pump forward attack after attack. Counter-attacks were the only way for the away side to make their attacking presence, and they made it once in a while, to give their defence some much-needed relief.
Even though Aizawl had all the attacks in the opening thirty minutes, the first goal of the afternoon was scored by the away side with Darryl Duffy smashing in a free-kick in the 32nd minute. The Scottish striker’s eleventh goal of the season came from a low strike from outside the box, which beat Aizawl keeper Lalawmpuia. With the goal in the bag, Salgaocar once again returned to their defensive positions to keep the home side frustrated going into the break.
The second half started as an exact replica of the first with Aizawl dominating the possession and the attacks, while Salgaocar sat back and waited for their opportunity. The away side’s ploy almost backfired in the 63rd minute after Nigerian striker Joel Sunday found space in the box to take a left-footed shot at the goal. The shot looked destined for goal and the crowd almost jumped into celebration, but the ball struck the left post to dash the hopes of the home side. Although, Aizawl tried hard for a goal, Salgaocar maintained their shape and curtailed all the attacks from the Mizoram team to earn three vital points. With the win, Salgaocar moved out of the bottom of the table and jumped to fifth, while Aizawl find themselves on the brink of relegation after falling to eighth with just one match remaining in the season.