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Lotjem stars with a brace as Sudeva Delhi beat Mumbai Kenkre

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Mumbai Kenkre FC 1 (Samandar Ochilov 74′)
lost to
Sudeva Delhi FC 3 (Lalbiakliana 56′, Seilenthang Lotjem 67′, 77′

MUMBAI: A match between the bottom-placed teams of the Hero I-League provided some of the best football this season, and several moments of individual brilliance, as Sudeva Delhi FC earned their second win, beating Mumbai Kenkre FC 3-1 at the Cooperage Stadium on Monday, February 13, 2023.

The first half was rather lacklustre, with the two teams creating one real chance each. First, Mumbai Kenkre’s Cameroonian forward Auguste Somlaga wasted a perfect cross from the right by Kynsailang Khongsit in the 27th minute. Somlaga was unmarked in front of the goal but incredibly, headed it wide from six yards out.

The second chance came to eventual Hero of the Match Seilenthang Lotjem of Sudeva Delhi, at the stroke of half-time. Nitesh Darjee centred from the left to find the 18-year-old in the middle of the box unmarked. He had only Kenkre goalkeeper Padam Chettri to beat from hand-shaking distance, but his tap was too weak to beat the custodian. Lalbiakliana made a similar mistake in the 55th minute. This time the cross was from Lotjem.

However, Sankarlal Chakraborty’s team got the lead in the next minute itself. Lalbiakliana was brought down outside the box on the left. Argentine forward Alexis Gomez, who had the Kenkre defence on a string tonight, took a thunderous free-kick that hit the post. Lalbiakliana was at the right place to shoot the rebound. It deflected off Kenkre defender Lalhmangaihsanga, and went in.

The second goal, however, was a piece of sublime skill by Lotjem. He and Lalbiakliana combined once again from the left as the latter played a forward pass into the box. Faiz Khan was right in front of Lotjem, blocking his view at the goal. But he wrong-footed him with one touch of his left foot, then shot with his right to find the net as Chettri could only look on.

Samandar Ochilov from Uzbekistan was the only Mumbai Kenkre player on the day who made an impact on the opponents. He is particularly dangerous off set pieces and had a free-kick on target from just outside the box in the 61st minute but could not beat Priyant Singh. But Ochilov’s 74th minute free-kick was too good for the Sudeva goalkeeper. It flew over the wall as well as over a flying Priyant to make it 1-2.

But Kenkre’s hopes of at least salvaging a point evaporated three minutes later. This time Lotjem got the ball on the right inside the box from Gomez, deceived Suraj Negi with a mesmerising body feint and found the net with his left foot.

The win took Sudeva Delhi to nine points from 16 matches, while Mumbai Kenkre’s hopes of moving out of the relegation zone took a big hit as they remained on 14 points after 17 games in the Hero I-League.