KOLKATA: Rajasthan United FC (RUFC) and Chennaiyin FC qualified for the quarterfinals with contrasting 2-0 wins at the Durand Cup on Monday.
Youssef Atriss and Sergio Barboza Junior’s second half strikes against Indian Navy ensured RUFC claimed the second spot in Group B.
In the other match of the day in Imphal, Anirudh Thapa scored one and assisted in the other as Chennaiyin (7 points) got the better of local favourites Neroca FC to make it to the knock-out stages from group C in Asia’s oldest football tournament.
The other team from the group to make it to the last eight is Hyderabad FC (9 points).
In group B, Rajasthan’s win spelt doom for city giants Mohun Bagan as they made a group league exit just like arch rivals East Bengal.
While Mohun Bagan also had seven points like group toppers Mumbai City FC and second placed Rajasthan United, but having lost to the new club in their head to head became green and maroon brigade’s undoing.
RUFC, who needed a win to qualify for the knockouts, started on the front foot against the Navy side which was playing for pride, having garnered just one point from its three earlier matches and with no chance to qualify.
But both teams could not create any clear chances as the game was mostly played in the middle of the park. There were a lot of stops and starts to the game as both teams committed fouls while trying to break up each other’s moves.
RUFC started the second half by attacking the Navy box relentlessly. Second half substitutes Barboza and 17-year-old Gyamar Nikum added more teeth to RUFC’s attack.
RUFC finally broke the deadlock in the 73rd minute through Lebanese striker Attris. A shot from Ragav Gupta from outside the box was well saved by Vishnu but the rebound fell to Barboza who crossed past Vishnu and Youssef had to just tap it into an empty net.
An excellent through ball by Nikum was met by Barboza’s run in the 89th minute and he finished confidently past Vishnu to seal the game for his team.
In the second match of the day, Chennaiyin looked the better side throughout and definitely had the more quality fire-power at this stage of the tournament to come through quite comfortably.
It helped Tomas Brdaric’s side that the goal came early. A long ball meant for Croatian striker Petar Sliskovic, missed his head but struck his marker’s and fell on the path of Thapa’s run.
The diminutive midfielder took one touch to burst into the box and let go of a right footer which beat the Neroca keeper Soram Poirei for power.
Neroca could have equalised at the half-hour mark when John Chidi snatched the ball from Iranian defender Vafa, just outside the CFC box and drove in, but his curler round the keeper missed its target.
The CFC midfield, in particular Thapa, began taking total control of the game in the second half. Regular forays by Rahim Ali and Sliskovic, brilliantly martialed by Thapa as well as Sajal Bag on the wings made it a matter of time that CFC would score.
Vafa Hakhamaneshi finally provided that insurance when he leaped up to a beautifully delivered Thapa free-kick, to bang home a header. Soirei did not move.
The experienced CFC side played out the rest of the game without much fuss.
Thapa, now has five goal contributions in the nine goals that CFC has scored so far in the tournament.