Kolkata : United SC’s star acquisition Ranty Martins fired in a hat-trick in their opening sixth I-League fixture to humiliate Air India 5-1 at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan here on Sunday.
The local challengers played with 10 players for 70 minutes after defender Bello Rasaq was sent off in the first-half but they showed tremendous resilience to thrash the airmen. In his first I-league appearance after switching from defending champions Dempo, Martins struck in the 13th, 32nd and 57th minutes while K Asif (65th) and C K Vineeth (80th) completed the rout.
Mickey Fernandes provided the lone reply for Air India with his 23rd-minute goal.
After a forgettable Federation Cup campaign where they were eliminated in group stage, United SC had more heartbreak in store as Rasaq was shown a red card minutes after taking the lead. But they regrouped to finish with a 2-1 lead at the break.
The home side built up on a positive start and found the lead early in the 13th minute when Martins nodded home a nice assist from Shylo Malswamtluanga.
United SC suffered a blow in the 20th minute seeing their dependable central defender Rasaq sent off with a direct red card.
Referee Pratap Singh, who is one of the three referees to receive a professional contract recently, penalised Rasaq for dangerous play when the player had a collision with Air India striker Henry Ezeh.
Air India restored parity on the resultant free kick when midfielder Fernandes found the United SC net curling the ball past the opposition goalkeeper Sangram Mukherjee.
Undeterred by their numerical inferiority, United SC regrouped quickly and sought the goal route with full intensity.
Malswamtluanga came close to re-establishing United’s lead but his 29th minute attempt came off the Air India horizontal.
Martins produced the desired finishing in the 32nd minute when he neatly nodded home a cross from right-back Dipak Mondal to make it 2-1 for United at the break.
The fine understanding between the two costliest players of the team — Martins and Costa Rican former World Cupper Carlos Hernandes — reached a crescendo after the break in the 57th minute.
The two played a series of one-two-one to get the Air India defence on the mat before Martins bulged the opposition net with a rasping left-footer from top of the box to complete his hat-trick.
The ace Nigerian then set up Asif clear of the Air India defence in the 65th minute. The midfielder sent a powerful drive that beat the Air India custodian Sukhwinder Singh all ends up.
A shattered Air India defence conceded another goal in the 80th minute when Vineeth, released by a long floater from Hernandes, found the net with a sharp grounder to complete the visitors’ humiliation.
East Bengal held by Sporting Clube de Goa
Sporting Clube de Goa held East Bengal to a goalless draw in their opening match of the I-League football at the Nehru Stadium, Fatorda on Sunday. East Bengal had plenty of possession all through the match but could not translate their apparent superiority into goals.
Sporting Clube took the field without a foreign player but still managed to create panic and a couple of clear-cut chances in the first session.
Burly striker Dawson Fernandes was at the heart of all the moves as he troubled stopper-back Uga Okpara. The best opportunity came in the 40th minute when a overhead ball from Rojen Singh saw Dawson sidestep Okpara and all alone with only the goalkeeper at his mercy.
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