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Praise stars in Air India's win

Sports Reporter



NO STOPPING:Okorogor Praise (20) hogged the limelight in Air India's win over HASC.

Bangalore: HASC's season of passable mediocrity in the I-League football well and truly descended into a relegation slugfest on Sunday with a 3-1 loss to Air India at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium here.

Man-of-the-Match Okorogor Praise scored late in the first half and midway through the second, bookending Soccor Velho's 63rd-minute effort, to give the visitor all three points. R.C. Prakash provided HASC some consolation, scoring from the spot in the dying minutes of the match.

The defeat was the home side's third on the trot, leaving it reeling two points above the relegation places. Air India, on the other hand, climbed above HASC, and out of the bottom two, with the result, albeit only on goal difference.

HASC began full of purpose, spending large parts of the first period – up until the goal – in the other half of the pitch, but with little penetration.

The opening goal came against the run of play, and was a clumsy one to concede. HASC failed to retreat downfield after a free-kick opportunity in the 40th minute, and a ball hoofed out of the Air India box found Praise in acres of space at the other end. The Nigerian shrugged off compatriot Joseph Femi before calmly slotting home past goalkeeper P. Pramod.

The goal rattled the home side, with Air India carrying its new-found confidence into the second half. HASC continued to push men forward, and paid for its high defensive line with a goal.

Napoleon Singh led a breakaway after yet another failed HASC move, slipping Velho in down the right flank; the striker found the net with little fuss.

Air India's third was only six minutes away, and was the product of another counter-attacking move. Velho turned provider this time, skipping past left-back Rohit Chand to swing a cross in.

Although the excellent Allan Dias's first-time shot was parried by Pramod, Praise nodded the rebound in.

HASC's only clear-cut chance of the match fell to R.C. Prakash eight minutes from time, but the veteran fired miles over with the net beckoning from 10 yards.

Although Prakash earned and converted a penalty on 90 minutes, there was little sympathy on offer before an exasperated home crowd.

The result: HASC 1 (R.C. Prakash 90) lost to Air India 3 (Okorogor Praise 40, 69, Soccor Velho 63) .

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