A day of surprises

NEW DELHI JAN. 3. Two surprise results contributed to an entertaining afternoon's football in the quarterfinal league matches of the Durand Cup here on Friday. First, Army XI dented Vasco Club's reputation with a lone-goal victory in group `C' and then, Tata Football Academy (TFA) came back from an early goal deficit to hold Mohammedan Sporting 1-1 in group `A'.

Figuring as it was after a five-year gap in the Capital, Mohammedan Sporting drew a sizable number of its fans to the Ambedkar Stadium on Friday. However, Mohammed Habib's `pros' could not live up to expectations against a bunch of spirited boys from Jamshedpur.

After taking the lead in the fourth minute, with Abdul Latif Seriki making sure that a lobbed effort from Rahim Nabi, over the goalkeeper, will go in, Sporting was frustrated by a determined set of players, whose speed and passing often had the rival defence exposed.

The TFA equaliser was the end product of a fine passing sequence that saw Jirsangha pulling the ball back from the defence on the right to find Chandan Singh to his left and the latter putting Sumit Thapa through. Thapa's shot struck the post but he was quick to grab the rebound and slot in.

With coach Habib getting impatient by the minute on the sidelines, and with the crowd exhorting them, the Sporting players mounted pressure on the TFA defence in the second half, though after a spell of disjointed Kolkata attacks, the Jamshedpur side was back in action at the other end.

Sunday's match with JCT will now decide Sporting's fate. The Phagwara team had started with a victory, while TFA has finished its engagements with three points.

Vasco went out of the reckoning after its defeat on Friday. Army XI, which had drawn with Indian Telephone Industries (ITI) earlier, will now have to wait and see how ITI performs against the Goan side.

Substitute Bikash Gurung netted the match-winner for Army XI in the 62nd minute, volleying in a cross from the right from skipper Raghu Kumar.

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