Reigning Indian Super League (ISL) champions Hyderabad FC (HFC) qualified for the quarter-finals of the 131st Durand Cup, blowing away Neroca FC 3-0 at the Orange Brigade’s home turf-the Khuman Lampak Stadium, in Imphal. In what was another highly impressive and professional display by HFC in Group C, the Manolo Marquez managed side now has three wins from three games and their top striker Bartholomew Ogbeche, who had his second brace of the tournament, also climbed on top of the highest scorer’s chart, with four goals now against his name. Australian Joel Chianese scored the third for the ISL champs in a dominating display.
The Nigerian Bart Ogbeche’s prowess in front of goal is something perhaps Indian football has rarely seen play regularly on their grounds. His sense of presence, timing and power inside the box and the quality of his finishing has been giving nightmares to defenders in India for the past few years. Even on the day, he had a hand in all three goals, scoring two himself.
The first goal came early for the Nawabs after Akash Mishra, on the charge from his customary left, drove inside the box and crossed it back in, for Ogbeche to meet it at the right place as usual. He took a strike on the turn with his left, towards goal, but it took a couple of deflections in the crowd and the loose ball fell invitingly for Joel Chianese to slot home from close.
Thereafter the HFC midfield led by Borja Herrera began taking control of the game and chances were coming thick and fast for Hyderabad.
In the 17th, the Spaniard played a quick one-two with Lalchungnunga Chhangte while penetrating down the left, to deliver a cross to find Ogbeche at the right place again. The Nigerian made no mistake with the header.
Chianese had his golden chance for a second for himself when Chhangte played him in beautifully on the right, but the Australian hit the side netting with only the keeper to beat.
The half ended 2-0 but it was clear that there was going to be no way back for Neroca in this game.
It soon turned out to be true as HFC came out of the break in the same relentless mood. Neroca coach Khogen Singh’s introduction of Tangva Ragui and Lunminlal Haokip, two of his best players in the tournament, did add a bit of more purpose to the Neroca fightback and their forays forward did increase, but HFC were too solid overall to be too bothered by them.
Ogbeche finally made the home supporters begin to leave the ground, when in the 82nd minute, Hitesh Sharma showed great determination down the right flank to keep a ball in play. His cut back on the slide found none other than Ogbeche on the edge of the box and his measured right footer beat keeper Soram Porei for the third time in the match.
Report- Pratyusha Mukherjee