Air India under-19 beat M.S. Police 3-2 to clinch Super Division title

MDFA Super division champion Air India Under-19 Team posses with the trophy

Air India Under-19 win the Mumbai District Football Association Super Division title for the second time in a row as they beat Maharashtra State Police 3-2 at the Cooperage ground on Friday afternoon, 18 March 2016. Prolific scorer Amey Bhatkal netted a brace of goals while Sumesh Nair got the other one for the Air India youngsters. Himket Dembre and Swapnil Khaire got a goal each for the policemen.

An end-to-end action and drama witnessed in the final between Air India under-19 and Maharashtra State Police, Both the team have created goal scoring opportunities, which the former timely converted to go-on and clinch the champions tag.

Air India under-19 went into the first-half break with an important – although, a narrow – one goal advantage over policemen. Air India under-19’s natural game-plan to man-mark the opposition defence, when in possession of the ball meant, the M.S. Police wide-men or at times, one of the two midfielders tucked in-between the two center-backs to form a back-5, in an attempt to hold Air India under-19 away from their 18-yard-box.

Another approach, which the M.S. Police defence opted against a relatively quicker attacking force was the decision to play with a high-line, which backfired, when Air India under-19’s no.6 Sumesh Nair spotted the run of striker Amey Bhatkal in-space behind the M.S. Police defence with a fine through-ball, in the 14th minute of the match, the latter rounded the on-rushing M.S. Police goalkeeper and slotted the ball into an empty net.

M.S. Police’s approach to overload the flanks, in an attempt to catch Air India under-19’s wide defensive and attacking players off-guard proved fruitful, when left-winger Swapnil Mane found no.18 Himket Dembre in a heard of players with a fine cross, during a quick counter-attack from the left-flank, resulted in an equalizer for the Maharashtra State Police. The goal-scorer, Himket Dembre tossed the ball over the goalkeeper and leveled the scoring 3 minutes after Air India under-19’s goal.

For the most part of the first-half, M.S. Police could not get past an initial defensive block by Air India under-19’s midfield. And, when on occasions it did, there wasn’t much structure and attention in picking-out options as they saw their long-ball approach to either flank fail due to a lack of coordination in winning the important second-ball.

Meanwhile, Air India under-19 gathered a strong grip on the proceedings by dominating the central areas of the pitch, winning most of the second-balls and one-on-ones. As M.S. Police began to lose their hold in a tight and tense first-half, Air India under-19 surged forward in search and hope of going into the break with an advantage, and in the 42nd minute, a defensive clearance bounced-off an M.S. Police player and, Amey Bhatkal was the quickest to react on the lose-ball – as he guided the ball past the goalkeeper’s left, giving Air India under-19 a slight advantage going into the break.

The second-half started-off, at the exact same pace, where Air India under-19 left the first-45 minutes. A minute into the half, having seen the initial shot saved by the goalkeeper, a delicate finish from a tight angle from Sumesh Nair gave Air India under-19 under-19 a two-goal cushion very early-on, in the second-half.

By the time, the match entered its last quarter, with the score-line at 3-1 Air India under-19 comfortably dictated the proceedings on their own grounds, taking the game to M.S. Police, who seemed to have grown weaker in strengths as the match reached its closing stages. The crucial fourth-goal came in the 34th minute from M.S. Police, who somehow scrambled the ball into the net via Swapnil Khare after an initial poor clearance from the Air India under-19 defence. Even, after M.S. Police got themselves back into the match, they never seemed going an extra-bit for an equalizer for the second-time.

Much of the credit of Air India U-19 successful campaign should go to their coach Shyam Sawant who is getting the best out of his players even against the teams which had much better experience. This win also sheds the light as how much Air India is promoting football on grassroots level by promoting such talented young players.

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