Pune: Air India will take on HAL Bangalore in the 19th round I-League match at the Balewadi Sports Complex Ground, Pune. It will be considered an easy match for them after their match against Churchill Brothers.
The Mumbai side will very well remember that the Bangalore team, which remained winless for 16 rounds, scored its first win of the season and indirectly helped Mumbai FC to stay clear of drop zone for a while.
Though Air India is well clear of relegation zone, but given the way they have played so far and gathered respectable points, the airmen would like to be that way and finish on a high before I-League takes 40-odd-day break.
Air India will be propped up by the return of striker Henry Ezeh, and mid-fielder Takayuki Omi, both having forced to miss the Churchill match due to double bookings.
With 24 points from 18 matches, Air India is just three points behind Sporting Clube de Goa and three ahead of fast-approaching Shillong Lajong FC (21), who play Pailan Arrows on Sunday.
While HAL are at the bottom of the heap with 6 points and nothing really can change their fortunes at least for this season.
There were few worries for Air India as muffed several opportunities against Churchil, and key spoiler was midfielder Sandeep Sangha, who missed at least four chances to get the ball through Churchill’s net.
On most occasions, an over-ambitious Sangha fired over the crossbar, while once he completely missed the ball that landed in front of him when he had just the goalkeeper to beat. Peeved Kashyap replaced Sangha, as the match wore on.
Then there was Sandesh Gadkari, who also seemed lackluster in front of the goal mouth.
Though Manandeep is in fine nick, but luck wasn’t with him and Air India. Another positive that Air India can take into the match is custodian Pawan Kumar’s form, who saved several approaches by Churchill strikers.
Meanwhile, Ramalingam Thyagraj’s HAL, on the other hand will have to do a lot to tighten its defence.on this ground, this is HAL’s third match of the season having lost against Pune FC (3-1) and Mumbai FC (4-0).
But they also have happy memories of Balewadi, when the Bangalore side has troubled Pune FC last season.
In head-to-head though, Air India leads 2-0 in three matches with one match being drawn.
By Indian Sports News