India’s journey in AFC Cup came to an end in Iraq, when Dempo lost to Dohuk by a solitary goal. With this loss Dempo are out of AFC Cup, where they had reached the round of 16 knock out stage after getting the second place in the group stages. Earlier East Bengal had also bowed out of the tournament in the group stages itself without winning a single game and drawing thrice.
Dempo had to face Iraqi club Dohuk in the single legged away fixture. Dempo were missing services of the experienced Beto, Mahesh Gawli and Debabrata Roy and the presence of a hostile crowd made things even worst. Dempo started defensively and allowed Dohuk to dominate the proceedings, Dohuk took full advantage of the situation and made frequent raids in the Dempo box. In the 20th minute Khaled Musher Ismail took a fantastic free-kick from just outside the box, which went past Dempo goalie Kattimani into the net. Duhok made many more attacks but luckily for Dempo, could not score. In the 2nd half, Dempo and soon to be Indian coach, Armando Colaco made few crucial decisions. Midfielder Ogba Kalu was called back to solidify the defence and Micky Fernandes was introduced to partner Climax Lawrence in the centre of midfield. The move worked and Dempo showed a much better display in the 2nd half. They did well to keep possession and made few attacks, but clear cut chances were missing. Duhok also had their chances, but nothing came out of them. The game ended with 1-0 score and Duhok qualified for the Quarter finals leaving Dempo out of the AFC Cup.
Dempo, who are the most successful club for India in AFC cup as they had reached the semis in 2008. However, this year Dempo had a mixed AFC cup performance. Inspite of reaching the knock-out stages, the embarrassing 0-9 loss in the group stages against the mighty Nasaf of Uzbekistan will be one of the low points for Dempo and will be difficult to erase from public memory. Another disappointment will be the poor form in the away games. In fact, they couldn’t muster a single goal in the three away games they played. Apart from this, all 6 of their goals came from foreign recruits Ranti and Beto, none of the Indian players could get their names in the scoresheet. Still, Dempo managed to get two wins and scraped past their nearest opponents in the group stages – Al Ansar from Lebanon.
After the match, Dempo coach Armando Colaco praised his boys for putting up a good fight despite missing three key players and playing under a very tight and tiring schedule. This is what he had to say “We did exceedingly well. I must congratulate my boys for playing so well despite being away from home and a tiring journey. The I-League schedule is tight. The players were tired not just from the end-of-season matches but also the constant travel. Under these testing conditions, we did well”.
The AFC Cup discussion thread has been one of the most discussed thread in IFN Forum, showing fans are highly interested in monitoring where does the top Indian clubs stand against other Asian clubs. The fans in India will have to wait for another year to see their favourite teams playing in the AFC cup. Hopefully, next year the clubs will give a stronger performance.