By no means a full house, but the crowd that did gather for the second match of Group B, featuring Mizoram and Sikkim, in the fourth Dr T Ao Memorial Football Tournament were vocal in their support. Defending champions Mizoram’s fans were in the majority and they came away happy after their team came from behind to win a thrilling contest 4-3 at the JN Stadium Shillong on Tuesday.
It was a fast-paced match between two of the smallest North Eastern teams and Sikkim got the ball rolling by scoring on the first minute.
Mizoram started haphazardly, with Sikkim scoring just on the first minute through Tshering Zangpo Tamang when he took the ball easily off a Mizoram defender and put it into the net. Sikkim then had a chance almost immediately, but the ball was shot wide.
The Mizoram team then started to look a little more composed and began to attack more vigorously.
Mizoram put the Sikkim keeper Nim Tenzing Lepcha under pressure a number of times but couldn’t get the ball past him until the 28th minute.
Lal Bia Khula received a lofted ball while unmarked. In the box, he kicked the ball to the right of the keeper and it hit the upright before going into the net.
After claiming the equaliser, Mizoram would have wanted to turn the match in their favour, but Tamang put paid to that with his second goal just four minutes later. Having gotten past his marker, he neatly dabbed the ball from outside the box past the custodian J Van Lal Hriata.
Mizoram had two further good chances towards the end of the first half but failed to convert.
Mizoram pushed for the equaliser after the break, with the bulk of the opportunities coming their way, but they couldn’t make them count. It was desperate defending by Sikkim that kept them at bay.
Sikkim made things worse for their opponents with a goal to take them to 3-1 in the 58th minute. A handball gifted them a free kick from 12 yards out of the box. Skipper Milan Lepcha came up to take the shot and accurately fired it into the net.
Credit went to Mizoram for never giving up. In the 71st minute they reduced the margin with a goal from Khula. Good passing between the players outfoxed the Sikkim defence and as the keeper was drawn forward, the ball was passed to Khula, who scored.
Buoyed with that goal, Mizoram rarely conceded too much possession to the opposition. In the 79th minute Khula took the ball up the right flank and crossed it along the ground across the face of the goal for Lal Nun Mawia to ease it into the back of the net.
Mizoram’s fans were on their feet for the last few minutes and they celebrated raucously two minutes from normal time after a quick throw-in caught Sikkim’s defence unawares and Mawia headed the ball in to make it 4-3.