IN A THRILLING COMEBACK, Chanmari FC overcame national champions Aizawl FC in their high profile Independence Day Football Tournament semi-final encounter, knocking them out of the tournament and reaching the finale.
The Aizawl Derby match-up between the only two clubs from Mizoram to ever play in the national level faced off for a place in this early-season cup competition final. The match started with Aizawl FC looking the better of the two sides, and sure enough, just about 17 minutes into the game, Rochharzela scored for the reigning Indian top division champions.
Aizawl FC got more chances but Chanmari FC kept fighting hard looking to create space. As the afternoon wore on at Lammual, the contest stayed locked at 1-0. Aizawl FC never looked out of shape and even had a special moment midway through the second half when they introduced their new signing, Mizo football legend and Indian national team veteran Shylo Malsawmtluanga. As the match went into added time, Aizawl FC were still holding fast to their lead by that solitary goal.
And then everything turned on its head. In the 4th minute of added time, Thomas Lalengkima took advantage of a defensive error and struck a shot into Aizawl FC's net. The attending fans went mad as the game became level at 1-1 and the match was extended to a 30 minute Extra Time.
This time, Chanmari FC came out fighting. Emboldened by their long-saught equalizer, they created a couple of early chances, and finally, when the game clock was in its 103rd minute, Thasiama broke the deadlock. Chanmari FC went 2-1 ahead and defended hard for the remainder of the game to claim victory.
The Mizoram Premier League champions had pulled off an amazing fightback to knock out the I-League champions.
The victory is even more special because Chanmari FC ran into some financial troubles in the recent past. But if their current run in the Independence Day Football Tournament is anything to go by, they have come back to their groove roaring, partly thanks to a partnership with ISL franchise FC Pune City.
In the second semi-final match tomorrow, Chhinga Veng FC will take on MPL table toppers and finalists Bethlehem Vengthlang FC in what is expected to be another hard fought contest to determine who would join Chanmari FC to get a shot at earning some prestigious silverware to begin the season with.
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