The revived Stafford Challenge Cup enters its business end with the semi-finals billed for March 3 and 4 and the final on March 6, 2023. With Karnataka reaching the final of the Santosh Trophy after 47 years, all eyes will be on Karnataka as it strives to regain past glory in organisational ability and on-field performances as well.
The first semi-final on Friday will be an all-outstation affair between Chennaiyin FC and Delhi FC set for kickoff at 3.30 p.m. at the KSFA Stadium while the second semi-final on Saturday will be an all-Bengaluru clash as FC Bengaluru United take on the ASC Centre at the same time and venue.
Delhi FC topped Group C with an all-win record with nine points having beaten Kenkre FC 1-0, prevailing over Bengaluru FC 2-1 and then getting the better of Sreenidhi Deccan FC 3-2. They needed only a draw in their final match but managed to bag all three points. They have a balanced team which has scored six goals and let in three. The defence looks far more solid with the goal also well taken care of. In midfield, Vanlal and Lalrinzuala have worked hard to keep the attack going. Though the attack isn’t as sharp and thrustful as expected, it can take advantage of mistakes by the opponents and punish them.
Delhi would do well to resist questioning every decision. The Coach and the Manager have been booked for dissent and could well be in for more trouble if they don’t eschew their tendency to question every call made by the officials.
Chennaiyin FC topped group D on goal difference with seven points from two wins and a draw. Local side Kickstart FC too had a similar result sheet, but the Chennai team had a goal difference of plus 10 having scored 12 and conceded just two to Kickstarts' plus three. Chennaiyin defeated the Ahmedabad Racquet Academy FC 1-0 and trounced Kerala United FC 9-0 in their other outings. As such Chennaiyin FC advanced to the semi-finals. They have relied mainly on Senthamil to score and on Solaimalai to do the spadework. But they don’t appear to be as balanced as their rivals and might find Delhi FC tough nuts to crack.