Ali Faisal’s second-half strike helped newly-promoted Mohammedan Sporting beat debutants Sudeva Delhi FC 1-0 as the I-League season got underway here on Saturday.
Faisal’s 58th-minute goal proved to be the difference between the two sides in a match that could have gone either way at the VYBK Stadium.
In a cagey first half, both teams appeared to be gauging each other’s strengths without exposing themselves to counter-attacks.
Sudeva Delhi FC, the first club from the national capital to play in the I-League, had the first shot on target in the seventh minute when Kean Lewis cut inside from the left flank only to force the opposition custodian into an easy save.
Playing with an all Indian squad, Sudeva Delhi FC tried to unlock the defence of the Black Panthers by long balls.
Mohammedan Sporting had an opportunity to move ahead in the 17th minute but Raphael Onwrebe missed a sitter in front of goal after Suraj Rawat unleashed a fine low cross into the box from the right flank.
With neither team committing men in attack and both sides playing with a deep backline, chances were few and far between. Kean Lewis, on occasion, tried to waltz past the Mohammedan defence but was kept at bay.
Sudeva Delhi FC started to press in the second half, looking for leaks in Mohammedan’s defence. Ajay Singh, however, was left isolated at times playing as a lone striker upfront.
The breakthrough came much against the run of play in the 58th minute when Faisal pounced onto a defensive error by the Sudeva backline and slotted it into the back of the net.
The sheer power of the strike beat custodian Rakshit Dagar, despite him getting a hand on the shot.
Sudeva Delhi FC went on the offensive thereafter and searched for the equalizer, committing bodies in attack to salvage points off the match.
Although half-chances came in plenty for the Delhi outfit, a clear goal-scoring opportunity eluded them.