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Saturday, June 15, 2024

RFDL: Muthoot FA win third-place playoffs against Bengaluru FC


Muthoot FA won the third-place playoffs against Bengaluru FC in penalties on Friday night in the National Championship of the Reliance Foundation Development League (RFDL) 2023–24 at the Reliance Corporate Park (RCP) here.

The match rounded off 2-2 in regulation time, and Muthoot FA triumphed over the Blues in the penalty shootouts to finish their run in the RFDL this season in the third spot.

Muthoot FA commenced the proceedings on the front foot, breaking the deadlock as early as the second minute of the match. The suddenness with which they went about their offensive endeavours after kickoff caught the Blues aback.

Muhammad Ashar and Naveen Krishna engaged in a quick exchange on the left side of the box before the latter lobbed in a low cross for Salahudeen Adnan K to tap in and get his team the crucial early lead.

However, the Blues gathered their rhythm and momentum gradually as the game progressed. They fell back to testing the Muthoot FA backline with their cohesive, free-flowing moves in the final third, with the duo of Monirul Molla and Ankith P donning the lead roles in the same.

The deftness in Molla’s passes meant that his deliveries sliced through the Muthoot FA backline, and Ankith demonstrated terrific efficiency to bury those opportunities.

For starters, the 27th minute saw Bengaluru FC gradually making forays into the Muthoot FA box with a series of passes that pegged them behind. Molla’s assist laid the final blow as his through ball met an onrushing Ankith, who converted the chance with ease to notch the equaliser.

Thirteen minutes later, it was this duo again that gave Bengaluru FC the slender lead that they squandered in the concluding moments of the game. In the inside channel of the right flank, Molla delivered another slick pass for Ankith, who pounced upon the opportunity despite it being from a slightly narrow angle and helped his side get a foot ahead in the game.

For the longest time, it appeared that the Blues would hold on to the lead till the end. However, Muthoot FA were to have the final laugh, and it was Adil Abdulla who sprouted the seeds of their late comeback.

Five minutes of added time were ordered at the end of 90 minutes, and Muthoot FA kept knocking on the doors, earning a corner kick in the 94th minute of the match. Abdulla, blessed by his tremendous aerial prowess, made the timely jump to nod the ball in from a scrambled situation following the set-piece.

The shootout followed, and though both teams refrained from ceding even an inch, Muthoot FA walked out as the winners of this match with a 5-4 margin in the penalties.

“We took an early lead, but the players got a bit comfortable after that, and hence we ended up conceding twice in quick succession. However, we got some rhythm afterwards, and we continued that until the end of the match.”

Muthoot FA coach Anees Koraliyadan said after the game:

“I had full belief in my players, and I wanted them to have more possession in the second half, and though it took some time, in the end, we managed to get the win we needed. I am very proud of my boys, and I know that we deserved to win this match,” he added.

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