There was nothing to separate Sudeva Delhi FC and Kerala Blasters FC as the two sides opened their Group D Durand Cup fixture with a 1-1 draw at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Friday.

KBFC forward Muhammed Ajsal’s strike (42’) helped his side gain the lead for a brief time, only to be cancelled by Sudeva Delhi FC’s Kuki’s ferocious left-footed curler (45’) as both sides fared level in the second half.

Sudeva Delhi were quick to make moves in the attack after an early strike by Basit was denied by the KBFC shot-stopper Sachin Suresh who stood tall to make a massive block.

The Blasters kept knocking on the door through some quick-paced counter attacks; Ajsal combining with Roshan who fired one in from the left but the Sudeva defender was quick to call action and managed to block the shot with a well-timed tackle.

Minutes later, Roshan found himself through on goal again, but his shot was blocked after Ashray made a brilliant last-ditch tackle to stop the Blasters’ attack.   

In the 37th minute, the referee handed out the first yellow card of the game to Tejas Krishna as he lunged in late with a two-footed challenge in the centre of the park.

Tomasz Tchorz’s men found their breakthrough as Ajsal placed himself in a comfortable position between two defenders and placed a calm and composed shot well outside the keeper’s reach after Gaurav broke through the Sudeva midfield to find him within reach.

No sooner than Ajsal’s goal, Sudeva found themselves in the offing to score a goal and they struck one. Kuki received the ball from Basit through a throw-in as he controlled it, got past a defender, and slotted it in the top corner with a sublime technique to cancel out the Gaurs’ opening goal right before the stroke of half-time.

Both sides just got into action right before the break, with the score line heading back to square one.

The Tuskers’ showed positive signs at the start of the second half as Roshan’s swirling free kick deflected off the woodwork.

Another booking for the Kochi-based club as substitute Jasim’s high boot over a Sudeva player resulted in him being handed a yellow card for the horrendous challenge.

With the play being rotated between the two halves on the pitch, neither team was able to capitalise on the other. The Blasters, on the contrary, remained behind the ball to not concede and be compact while defending.

Chencho Dorji’s men continued to prey on the Blasters’ defence as forward Karthik tested Sachin Suresh from distance but the custodian comfortably saved the shot.

Nemil’s early strike helps FCG clinch victory over Indian Air Force FT

FC Goa talisman Muhammed Nemil continued his top form as his stunning goal helped his side clinch their first victory of their Durand Cup campaign in a 1-0 win against Indian Air Force FT at the Kishore Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Friday.

An early strike from Nemil (8’) was enough to leave the Indian Air Force FT in troubled waters as the Armed Forces side failed to penetrate the Gaurs’ defence, even after a better second half display.

The game commenced with the Indian Air Force FT making their presence felt on the pitch with more possession and constant pressing.

Although they were the dominant side on the pitch, a sloppy pass in the defence opened the door for the Gaurs’ Muhammed Nemil to punish them, as he struck right from his position, a calm low-driven shot to beat the keeper to make it 1-0 for FC Goa in the 8th minute.

Indian Navy got their first big chance of the game as Vivek went for a shot from 40 yards that swerved off the post as he caught the keeper Hrithik Tiwari off-guard.

With a wonderful combination of play and triangular passes, Nemil had almost scored the second goal for his side after a well-oiled move found Nemil but the latter’s curled shot was far wide of the post.

Both sides showed their hunger for the goal but neither could add to their goal tally as Deggie Cardozo’s men went into the break with their noses in front.

The Armed Forces side missed a big opportunity in the 57th minute when Mandeep, who was left completely unmarked inside the box, missed an open header as he hit the side netting from a corner.

Majority of the battle was played out in the midfield, with either side failing to make an impact in the final third.

Both the keepers were kept busy in the latter stages of the game, with action coming from both sides as Delton’s shot was effortlessly saved by Shibinraj while Hrithik Tiwari made an exceptional save to deny Danish at the other end.

Chances galore for Indian Air Force FT as Aquib’s powerful shot hit the crossbar. Subsequently, Danish took the opportunity to shoot from outside the box in the 88th minute but his shot just skimmed the roof of the net, inches above the goal.

Priyadarshan’s men put the Gaurs on the backfoot by finding more ground in their half, but the Goan side managed to clear the lines with the help of their vigilante keeper who pulled yet another stunning save to guard the goal from a free-kick.

Deggie Cardozo’s men will look to carry their winning momentum when they face Jamshedpur FC next on August 26 while Indian Air Force FT prepare themselves to battle against a feisty Bengaluru FC side.