Bengaluru, Oct 23 (IANS): Rajasthan United were on Saturday crowned champions of the I-League Qualifiers 2021 here at the Bangalore Football Stadium, as they held on to a hard-fought 0-0 draw against Kenkre FC.
The side from Rajasthan needed a solitary point from the final match to secure the I-League berth owing to their two-point lead over Kenkre FC going into the final matchday. This result made Rajasthan United the first-ever team from their state to play in the I-League.
The match began with a slow tempo as both teams started cautiously. Chances were few and far between in the first half as neither team went in pursuit of a goal. As the match progressed, it seemed like both sides were waiting patiently for the other to lose nerve and make a mistake.
Rajasthan United were nearly punished for their first lapse in concentration in the 28th minute when Gurmukh Singh stepped out of the last line of defence to intercept a pass from Kenkre FC captain Al Azhar. Gurmukh could not bring the ball under his control as it rolled through to midfielder Pravitto Raju, who had a glorious opportunity to bear down on goal. Instead, Pravitto spotted RUFC goalkeeper Vishal Joon off his line and tried to lob him but failed. His effort went tamely into the hands of Joon.
Two minutes later, in the 30th minute, RUFC winger Aman Thapa had a great chance near the opposition box but was promptly brought down near the edge of the box. Aman Thapa stood over the resulting free-kick and produced a fantastic effort over the wall. However, goalkeeper Tenzin Samdup's world-class save denied RUFC the lead.
Kenkre FC came into the second half with renewed vigour as it was a case of now or never for the team from Mumbai, who had to force a win to claim the qualifying spot. It was indeed the side from Maharashtra who had the better chances to go ahead in the second half.
In the 60th minute, Kenkre FC striker Ranjeet Singh was played through on goal with a lofted ball over the top of the RUFC backline. With ample time to bring the ball down and space to run into, Ranjeet made the inexplicable choice of attempting to lob goalkeeper Vishal Joon from outside the box, much like the intentions of his teammate Pravitto Raju earlier. Ranjeet could not execute his finish and the ball sailed over the bar, leaving Kenkre FC head coach Akhil Kothari visibly frustrated.
They had some more chances but the result was more or less the same as they failed to find the all-important goal.