The Stafford Challenge Cup kicked off again after 30 years with both games ending in a draw at the Bangalore Football Stadium.
In the inaugural game, Group B's Roots FC of Bengaluru took the lead but were held to 1-1 draw by Gokulam FC, Kerala . In Group A, local challengers MEG went ahead only for Dempo SC, Goa, to equalize in the second half.
The newly formed Roots FC were a revelation. They played an attacking brand of football and stretched their opponents on both flanks with some astute crosses. The wingers responded well and provided many harrowing moments to the Gokulam defence, but lack of finishing prevented them from scoring in the first half. They were once out of luck when Vignesh’s powerful long ranger hit the post while the goalkeeper was out of position.
Roots began with a bang in the second half with Vignesh missing an open chance - he placed the ball over the cross bar while aiming the ball into the empty net. However, they forged ahead in the 64th minute when Yohan Victor Britto bulged the net from inside the 6-yard box from the right side.
They fell back on defence as Gokulam came back with some spirited moves to restore parity. They exerted pressure and their efforts bore fruit in the 87th minute when they were awarded a penalty. Roots defence Mohan Bahadur handled the ball inside the area and Referee Anil Gulia pointed to the spot. Substitute Samuel Mensah Konney made no mistake placing it home.
The two teams then closed shop and were content to go home with a point each.
MEG held by Dempo
Madras Engineer Group & Centre, Bengaluru, were held to a 1-1 draw by Dempo SC, Goa in the second match of the day. The Sappers were a dominant for most part of the game against the young Dempo side.
They did well to take the lead as well in the 16th minute when their tall stopper Ayush headed home a lob from Imnaakum. They stretched the flanks wide and had more of the ball but did not succeed in extending the lead. MEG also played wide apart and looked a rather tired lot in the second half.
Sensing their chance, Dempo indulged in their short passing game and built several moves. The through passes were struck a bit long and hard. Yet, they managed to come more into the attacking picture. A pile-driver from Shreyash Gajanan Naik was put out at the last minute by MEG goalkeeper Pramod Joshi as he dived low to his right. A lob from Adnold Antonio saw Topon Minj hit wide from close range.
Dempo restored parity in the 86th minute when Arnold’s lob was headed across the goal by Topon and Shreyash Gajanan managed to scramble it home after a goalmouth melee. For the equaliser. There was not much time left for any team to go for the winner and they went home with a point each.
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