Cuttack, (IANS): I-League champions Aizawl FC become the first team to reach the semifinals of the 38th edition of the Federation Cup football tournament from Group A with a 2-1 win over Churchill Brothers here on Tuesday.
Lalram Chullova's penalty strike in the 21st minute for the recently crowned I-League champions was cancelled out by an 84th-minute penalty conversion by Churchill's Liberian midfielder Ansumana Kromah.
But Laldanmawia Ralte's 89th-minute header settled the tie in Aizawl FC's favour.
The match was off to a slow start with both teams playing with caution and the only real action in the first fifteen minutes was a goal bound attempt by Aizawl FC's Ivory Coast striker Kamo Bayi in the 6th minute.
The match sprung into life in the 21st minute when Aizawl FC were awarded a penalty. Lalruatthra bombarded into the penalty box and was brought down by Churchill Brothers defender Adil Khan, prompting the referee to point to the spot.
Lalram Chullova stepped up and slotted the ball into the right corner to hand Aizawl FC the lead.
Aizawl FC goalkeeper Albino Gomes on the opposite end kept out Brandon Fernandes's shot a minute later as the Goan outfit searched for the equaliser.
Aizawl FC's Syrian import Mahmoud Al-Amna was given permission to join the duo of Jayesh Rane and Kamo upfront and his presence and ability to take the ball into the final third, gave Churchill's defence a tough time.
Al-Amna, in the 39th minute, linked up play with Kamo. But the Ivorian shot wayward of goal after seeing two defenders off. The half-time scoreline read 1-0.
It was not long for Churchill Brothers to test Aizawl FC's defence, but the latter's centre-back pairing held up to the task. Churchill Brothers enjoyed healthy spells of possession in the final third in the second half but could not make anything out of it.
With Aizawl FC playing cautiously in an attempt to seal off any chance for their opponents at goal, their midfield dropped back to make up numbers. That proved difficult for Churchill Brothers to handle and despite dominating possession, the Goan outfit were held at bay.
Both teams missed the necessary edge upfront, but in the 72nd minute Kromah latched onto a long ball and almost released his shot but was shrugged off by the Aizawl FC defence line.
Churchill Brothers were awarded a penalty in the 84th minute and Kromah stepped up to score with confidence and level proceedings as the scoreline read 1-1.
But Ralte spoiled Churchill Brother's party as his header in the 89th minute found the back of the net to give Aizawl the advantage.The full-time scoreline read 2-1 as Aizawl FC registered their second win of the tournament to qualify for the semi-finals.
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