Coimbatore: Despite a sloppy show, Meghalaya managed to pull off a 1-0 win over a determined Uttar Pradesh in its opening Cluster II clash of the 63rd Santosh Trophy National football championship here on Wednesday.
Having lost the opener, the U.P. men played with a lot of fire, but to no avail in the end and they are out of the contention with this loss.
However, to start with they scoffed at those who had written off their chances with some brilliant attacking play. Their forwards carried a goal-scoring threat at every given occasion. And, the men from the north east struggled to bottle them up.
Dharmendra Deogram exhibited the first flash of class for U.P. in the 23rd minute with a smart header from close to the goalmouth. It could have well put U.P. in front but an alert F. Vanlalhruaia, the Meghalaya custodian, came up with a timely save.
After a shaky half hour, Meghalaya went on a rampage through Marlangki Suting, Banshari Sun and Zico Zubremsanga.
The trio looked threatening upfront but most of their angles went in favour of Mohammed Atif, the U.P. custodian.
Meghalaya enjoyed the edge in the second session but the U.P. defenders held the fort in a brave manner.
Just as the match seemed to be drifting towards a respectable draw, Milton John created a goal-scoring chance for Meghalaya in the 35th minute. Moving wide, he beat two defenders in a powerful run down the right touch line. The burst totally upset the balance of U.P’s rearguard. And, when Milton cut the ball back for a crisp cross to the danger area, no U.P. defender picked up Timmy Ryngkhlem, who sprinted in from the left and turned the ball into the net.
U.P. reacted immediately to the sting through two of its linkmen Afroj Khan and Dharmendra Deogam, but their efforts fetched them no rewards.
“They had professional players on their side but our boys fought till the end. I am proud of each on of them,” said A. Salim, U.P’s coach.
But, Meghalaya’s coach L. Darlong was not a happy man. “We played a very bad game but managed to squeeze a win. I hope this will be a big lesson when they play Maharashtra next.”
The result: Meghalaya 1 (Timmy Ryngkhlem 80) bt U.P. 0.
Thursday’s match: Kerala vs. Chhattisgarh.