Royston’s lone goal ends Air India’s unbeaten streak

A second-half strike from Royston D’Souza helped Union Bank of India (UBI) to register a memorable win against the defending champions Air India in the Mumbai District Football Association (MDFA) Elite Division game at Cooperage Stadium on Wednesday evening.

This win also ends Air India’s unbeaten streak which lasted for more than a year. This result was also Union Bank of India’s first win against Air India in an Elite Division fixture in the last 20 years. Although UBI has beaten Air India in Nadkarni Cup and Independence Cup over the years.

The first-half saw both the team having same number of opportunities, and surprisingly both of them failed to convert it in front of the goal. UBI had a fine start altogether, their determination to beat the defending champions was clearly visible.

UBI could have got the lead on the 17th minute itself. Royston D’Souza found Shravan Shetty with a pin point long ball, whose header was just off target.

Air India almost replied with a goal when Anuraj Sidhu headed his effort over the bar from Rugved Yeole’s free kick. Few minutes later, Air India once again came close to score as Anuraj saw his low drive hitting the inside off the post, which would have changed the course of the whole match.

With few minutes left for the break, UBI once again came close to score which was their best chance of the first-half.

Royston D’Souza found Pratik Koli who delivered a fantastic cross towards attacking midfielder Valentine Pereira, with the goalkeeper out of his position, Valentine only had to put the cross into the empty net but his diving header instead went wide.

Although just two minutes into the second-half, UBI finally broke the deadlock. Daniel Muthu’s fine cross was parried away by Air India’s goalkeeper Ubaid CK which fell into Royston’s path, who comfortably put the ball into the empty net to give UBI a much needed lead over a dominant Air India.

The game changed from there itself. Air India’s coach Godfrey Pereira brought in Raynier Fernandes in the second-half, who almost had an immediate impact on the game.

On the 53rd minute, Raynier delivered a brilliant cross into the box, which was cleared by UBI’s goalkeeper Sheldon Raghwan but unforutnately fell into Sunny Thakur’s path, who lashed a thunderous volley which rattled the bar.

Minutes later UBI breathed a sigh of relief when Sheldon Raghwan brilliantly saved Sunny Thakur’s shot, who danced his way into the 18 yard box through three defenders.

With 20 minutes left, Air India’s Henderson Dias had a great opportunity to equalize. The number 7 poked his effort wide from Raynier Fernandes cross from the left flank.

With Air India pressurizing UBI’s backline, the back four of UBI had to play for their lives in the last stages of the game. Air India’s Rugved Yeole saw his left footed shot cleared from the line by UBI’s defender Ashish Pawaskar, who was tremendous for the whole match alongside Dion Menezes.

UBI held their nerves in the stoppage time to become the first team for more than a year to defeat Air India in the Elite Division. A memorable day for UBI’s player and management, indeed. As for Air India, this loss can crash their hopes for winning the Elite Division Title.

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