Prayag United 2 (CK Vineeth – 12th, Lalkamal Bhowmick – 88th)
Pailan Arrows 1 (Narayan Das – 85th)
KOLKATA: Lalkamal Bhowmick became the unheralded saviour for Prayag United SC pulling up a late winner to stop his team from reaching the anti-climax of playing a draw after producing the second biggest win of the I-League. Prayag United edged past a fighting Pailan Arrows 2-1 in a sixth round match at Kolkata’s Salt Lake Stadium on Sunday and in the bargain reached the second spot in the current League standings.
CK Vineeth found an early break for Prayag United in the 12th minute before Arrows made a late charge to find the equaliser off Narayan Das in the 85th minute. Lalkamal Bhowmick found the winner two minutes from the regulation time to help Prayag United net full points and take its tally to 13 points from six outings in the ongoing I League. With Dempo SC also on 13 points, Prayag United edged past the defending champion for possessing a better goal difference (+14 compared to +8 of Dempo).
The bonhomie of the great win in the previous round seemed to work out a sense of gratification as Prayag United spurned the organised approach that fetched it the ‘historic’ win (the 10-1 result against United Sikkim FC). The team instead retracted into a shell as the youthful developmental side of All India Football Federation – the Arrows – put a relentless chase and contained the aggressive intent of the former to a great extent.
Prayag United made the right start and took it to a logical extent by finding an early lead but action thereafter drifted to a level of mediocrity. The goal came off a long floater from midfield, which was snapped up on top of the Arrows’ box by Costa Rican Carlos Hernandes.
The latter managed to push the ball ahead for Vineeth to finish with a nice half-volley. The first half lost steam after the early goal, following which the action was reduced to midfield meanderings.
The second half produced some openings for Prayag United but that could not help altering the scoreline. Nigerian striker Ranty Martins, who scored five in the earlier match, was a shadow of his previous self as he missed a host of opportunities coming his way. The action heated up towards the end when Arrows, after missing a couple of set-piece chances, found themselves third-time lucky. As substitute Tirthankar Sarkar curled the ball into the Prayag United box from the corner, wing-back Narayan Das flew in to nod the ball past Subrata Paul in the Prayag United goal (1-1, 85th minute).
Before the Arrows could end their celebration of scoring the equaliser, Lalkamal Bhowmick restored the lead for Prayag United. The centre-half of Prayag United calmly slotted the ball past an off-positioned Soram Poirei in the Arrows’ goal to bring joy back in the Prayag United ranks (2-1, 88th minute).