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KEEN TUSSLE: Railways’ Abhishek (centre), who scored the only goal of the match, engaged in a duel with Delhi’s Manoj Joshi for possession of the ball.
KEEN TUSSLE: Railways’ Abhishek (centre), who scored the only goal of the match, engaged in a duel with Delhi’s Manoj Joshi for possession of the ball.

Karthik Krishnaswamy

Abhishek nets the winner against Delhi

TIRUVALLUR: A sparse crowd at the Don Bosco Youth Centre, Red Hills, watched Railways begin its Santosh Trophy campaign with a 1-0 win over Cluster V rival Delhi on Sunday.

The narrowness of the scoreline masked a comfortable afternoon for Railways, easily the more threatening attack despite the presence of Sunil Chhetri in the Delhi forward line. The Indian National team’s star striker remained peripheral for large chunks of the game, with his teammates unable to provide him adequate service. With neither Chhetri nor strike partner Kamei possessing any real aerial threat, Delhi’s long-ball approach was never going to work.

Hero and zero

At the other end, Railways striker Abhishek provided the two major talking points of the match — scoring at the end of the first half and getting himself sent off at the end of the second.

Railways coach V. Sounderrajan arranged his midfield in a diamond formation, with East Bengal playmaker Mehtab Hussain at its tip, playing just off the strikers.

Lashing home

Mehtab created the game’s only goal, winning the ball in midfield and threading it to Abhishek ahead of him in the inside-right channel. After Delhi keeper Pronoy Roy blocked his first attempt, the lanky front man lashed home from an acute angle on the rebound, seconds after the fourth referee had indicated a minute of first half injury time.

Towards the hour mark, Chhetri sparked briefly to life, drifting to the left to pick up Delhi’s diagonal lobs. Combining with Santa Singh, he set up shooting opportunities for Mahender Singh and Nirmal Deep, but neither troubled Railways keeper Ehtesham Ahmed unduly.

Dominant

Apart from that, Railways was dominant, with its attacking players decidedly more assured in possession, moving with intent off the ball, providing Mehtab with multiple outlets.

In the final minute, Mehtab slid the ball to Abhishek again, only for the striker to be adjudged offside.

He shot regardless of the referee’s whistle — and the fact that he’d been booked earlier in the second half for a handball — earning himself a second yellow and a suspension from Railways’ next game.

The results:

Railways 1 (Abhishek 45+1) bt Delhi 0.

Monday’s match: Manipur vs. Uttarakhand, 4 p.m.

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