The prestigious and inviolable Indian Football Association's (IFA) Shield, the fourth oldest trophy in world football, has commenced its group stages in capital of West Bengal, Kolkata. The defending champions of the trophy are United SC, from Kolkata.
The opening ties in the shield, now in its 120th year as an active competition, saw the U19s of East Bengal muster a win over city rivals United SC's U19 side, in a group A tie, while the All India Football Federation's (AIFF) elite academy overthrew DSK Shivajians' colts in a thriller contest from Group B.
The IFA Shield's structure was widely reformed last season and it is now a U19 tournament. Ten teams have vowed participation in this year's Shield with the playing field evened out into two groups of five teams each. The top two teams from each group will advance to the semi-finals.
In the first tie at the Barasat stadium, Lallianzuala and Lalruatpuia teamed up to hand the Pune-based side a comfortable 2-0 lead. But they were pegged back in style, as the Federation's Prasenjit Chakraborty, Bedashwar Singh, Boaringdao Bodo and captain Anirudh Thapa all embeded their names onto the scoresheet to cap off a fantastic revival. DSK's Gagandeep Singh reduced the deficit to just a single goal, but that's how it stayed for the remainder of the game, as the AIFF's side notched up their first three points in the group.
The second tie of the game saw East Bengal's young guns take on United SC's U19 team in a miniature version of the Kolkata Derby, from Group A. This game was widely regarded as a tie to watch out for as it was a rematch of the 2015 IFA Shield final.
The Red and Gold trailed to an early penalty by the defending champions, which was succesfully converted by Sandip in the 32nd minute.
Proceedings seemed under control for the Purple Brigade until the half-time break, into which they took a 1-0 lead. However, the opposition's skipper Arup manned the mantle, to haul the U19s onto level terms through a free-kick, four minutes after the half-time interval.
Budhwa then compounded the misery for the opposition as he capitalized on slack defending and smashed in a second for the 2015 runners-up in the 70th minute. The home team would eventually hang on for the remainder of the game to record a 2-1 opening win in their group.
Wednesday's fixtures will see Salgaocar take on the Tata Football Academy (TFA), in a group A tie, at 2.30 PM IST.