Tiddim Road Athletic Union’s (TRAU) counter-attacking football got the better of Rajasthan United’s attacking game at Ambedkar Stadium in New Delhi, on Saturday, January 28, 2023, as Leimapokpam Nandakumar Singh’s wards inflicted a 2-1 loss on the home team in the Hero I-League.
It is not often that a team with more attempts at goal and more ball possession ends up on the losing side. But that was exactly the case with Pushpender Kundu’s team as TRAU made better use of the number of chances they got.
Apart from forwards Salam Johnson Singh (Hero of the Match) and Komron Tursunov, TRAU’s overseas defenders led by Gerard Williams and Godfred Agyemang had a fantastic match, which made the difference. Their tackling was excellent inside the box and they made a couple of goalline saves when goalkeeper Jedidi Haokip was beaten all ends up. But not just the central defenders, the entire team defended for their lives in the second half, when Rajasthan United came up with a flurry of attacks. Atai Dzumashev and Lalremsanga kept the wings very busy in the last quarter of the match in particular. Better finishing could have seen them take away three points from this match.
Rajasthan United looked like taking charge of the match right from the word go and one of many Lalremsanga crosses found Pintu Mahata unmarked inside the TRAU box when the match was only ten minutes old. Haokip dived to his right to save Mahata’s header. Shaiborlang Kharpan, the only forward, got two chances over the next two minutes but could not convert them.
Four minutes later, against the run of play, Brazilian Fernandinho’s creativity from the left and Salam Johnson Singh’s unsettling speed from the right combined to give TRAU the lead. Johnson sneaked into the penalty box unnoticed and landed a picture-perfect volley into the net off Fernandinho’s cross.
The lead did not last long though. Five minutes later, neither Haokip nor any of his defenders tried to intercept Atai’s corner from the left flank. It reached Shaiborlang, standing at the far post. He chested it straight into the goal to make it 1-1. The Kyrgyz midfielder’s corner from the same flank landed TRAU in trouble again in the 28th minute. Haokip failed to fist the ball away and it would have gone in, had one of the defenders not cleared it off the goalline. Three minutes later, Atai himself was guilty of wasting Lalremsanga’s precise cross but shooting it way over the bar from handshaking distance.
So much attack did not bear fruit for Rajasthan United, it kept vast open spaces behind for TRAU to exploit on the counter instead. They did that successfully in the 40th minute, when Komron Tursunov got between two defenders, getting a beautiful lob from behind. The defenders tried to close him out, but Tursunov kept his cool to send his right-footer in and make it 2-1.
Rajasthan United got two chances within the first ten minutes of the second half. Lalremsanga’s lob found two men in front of the goal but neither of them could get a touch. On the second occasion, TRAU defenders made another goalline save to deny Lalremsanga.
Kundu brought in Britto PM in search of the equaliser but even he was not able to honour Atai’s solo run across the field and a cross to head it in in the 86th minute. He got another chance in the next minute but misdirected the head once again. In fact, he picked up two yellow cards during his short stay and was sent off a couple of minutes from the final whistle.
This result takes TRAU up to the third spot on the Hero I-League table with 22 points from 13 matches, while Rajasthan United are languishing at seventh position with 18 points from 13.
AIFF Media Release