Indian Cultural League bow out after a goalless draw with HDFC

Indian Cultural League (ICL) failed to grab an all important victory which would have sent them through to the play-offs as they drew 0-0 with Housing Development Finance Corporation (HDFC) Bank in a 1st Division game of the Mumbai District Football Association (MDFA) at St. Xavier’s Ground in Parel.

Only a win could have prevented ICL from elimination and they faced a daunting task as they were up against the already qualified HDFC Bank who had been in splendid form this season, also winning the BFRA Trophy on Republic Day.

HDFC started the better of the two sides as Jayesh Naik created their first opening in the 5th minute when he cut inside from the left flank and fired a shot which failed to work Gaurav Wagh in goal for ICL.

Seven minutes later, HDFC opened up the ICL defense thanks to some brilliant intricate play between Krunal Shelar and Jayesh Naik on the left set the latter through on goal but his effort lacked enough power to take it past Gaurav Wagh who scrambled it clear off the danger.

ICL were fortunate that the referee did not spot their defender pulling Jayesh Naik’s shirt before he took his shot. It was a clumsy piece of defending from ICL and on another day it could easily have been a penalty.

HDFC had got a firm grip of the game and produced a crisp passing move which resulted in Blair Fernandes shooting in the 17th minute only to see his shot go straight at the ICL goalkeeper.

HDFC were getting plenty of joy down their left flank where ICL right back Jayant Tandel was easily getting drawn into the tackles as Jayesh Naik ran rings around him.

HDFC’s Sheldon Binny missed a golden chance to put his side in the lead in the 22nd minute when he took too many touches to make his shooting angle narrow and fire in the side netting after a clever long ball saw him in a one on one position with the goalkeeper.

HDFC’s Ketan K. was booked in the 29th minute for a professional foul on an ICL attacker who was charging at the HDFC goal. From the resultant free kick Rohit Merchande struck the crossbar with a dipping effort. Rohit was unfortunate not to score after a beautifully crafted free kick.

The chance restored some belief back into ICL who started imposing themselves on the game as the first half drew to a close.

The game remained deadlocked at half time, but the game wasn’t short of drama as HDFC were the dominant side, but ICL had come the closest to scoring.

The second half began with HDFC in the ascendancy and Sheldon Binny should have had them in the lead in the 43rd minute, when he failed to head home a delicious cross from the left flank despite being just yards out.

Jayant Tandel was enduring an afternoon to forget as Jayesh Naik again got the better off him in the 46th minute to deliver a cross but HDFC’s final effort from Herman D’Souza was a tame one as the Gaurav Wagh collected comfortably.

ICL were given a huge boost when HDFC’s Ketan K. was giving his marching orders for a second bookable offense after he bundled the ICL striker with a rather nasty tackle from behind.

ICL missed two great chances to take the lead in the 64th minute when HDFC goalkeeper Sukesh Shastri came off his line to clear the ball. The clearance fell kindly for a ICL midfielder who despite having an empty goal only managed to hit a weak effort straight at the relieved Sukesh Shastri who gobbled it up. But seconds later some neat work from Rahul Solanki saw him pick out Xavier Fernandes whohad made a great run into the box, but he failed to apply the finishing touch as his lobbed effort went over the onrushing HDFC goalkeeper.

The chances gave ICL more belief but there was a general feeling in the ground that their chance had gone.

HDFC finished the game strongly, as the ICL hopes faded by the minute and forced a great save off Gaurav Wagh who dived low down to his left to save a drilled effort from Nelson Cadiz who danced his way into the space to shoot.

ICL’s shoulders had dropped as the ten men of HDFC kept hold of the ball adding to their frustrations. The referee signaled the end of the game after a single stoppage time minute which also signaled the end of the ICL campaign.

HDFC were the better team overall, but it was ICL who had the better chances to score. But it was not to be their day, as ICL bowed out of the competition for the play offs, but not before entertaining the crowds with some lovely attacking football and scoring bundles of goals

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