The boys in blue came out victorious for the second consecutive time as final finished in favour of the AIFF Elite Academy with two first-half goals from Anirudh Thapa and Vlalengzama in the space of six minutes to sink the Tata Football Academy.
The grand finale of the U-18 I-League 2015-16 kicked off at the Howrah Stadium in the gracious presence of the dignitaries in the likes of Mr. Chuni Goswami, ex-Indian national team captain; Mr. Aroop Biswas, Minister of Sports, Govt. of West Bengal; Mr. Subrata Dutta, Vice President, AIFF; Mr. Sunando Dhar, CEO, I-League and Dr. Rathin Chakraborty, Mayor, Howrah.
The Tata boys kicked off the proceedings from right to left. The first few minutes saw an intense tactical battle between the two teams and none could afford to lose the plot.
Tata Football Academy skipper Ronald Singh curled a shot from the left but it sailed over the crossbar. The Tata boys did all the early attacking down the left-hand side through Vishal Das but then AIFF Elite Academy opened the scoring in the 22nd minute when captain Anirudh Thapa outran Billu Teli in the opposition half and went on to score the opening goal.
Jerry built up the second goal in the 28th minute as his perfect cross was collected by Vlalengzama who tapped the ball home to double their lead. For the rest of the half, Anirudh Thapa and Prosenjit Haldar controlled the game as they thwarted off the attacks from the Tata boys.
Tata Football Academy started the second half on high as they had to score not one but two goals to get back into the game. They started pressing up the field and Billu Teli received a booking in the totting up process. AIFF Elite Academy had the control of the game till the hour-mark when a scrappy incident led to the sending off of the midfielder Abhishek Haldar. The expulsion prompted a double substitution in the form of Nijwm Munchary and Kharlukhi at the expense of Vlalengzama and Bedashwor Singh.
The Tata boys went all out in attack to get back into the game. It was not until the 84th minute when TFA looked like getting back into the game from a scintillating header from Rakesh Yadav almost found the back of the net. Tata Football Academy made back-to-back substitutions but it hardly produced anything as Anirudh Thapa inspired AIFF Elite Academy to win the U-18 I-League.
The post-match celebrations were wild but there was respect and dignity between both the teams to acknowledge the efforts of each other. The football maestro Chuni Goswami quipped post the game, "The standard of football was really impressive today."
He went on to add, "Billu (Teli), Abhishek (Haldar) and Anirudh (Thapa) are the players for the future." Sunando Dhar, CEO, I-League said, "It is fantastic to see the top two teams of the nation battle it out for national glory. They are our rising stars and it is really heartening to see them progress."
Tata Football Academy coach Lee Walshaw sounded graceful too, "When we played the first game against Mohun Bagan, they said we would play the final against AIFF Academy and it is fantastic to have achieved our goals. Hopefully, we will better our records next season."
The victorious coach, Floyd Pinto didn´t forget to mention that Tata boys almost got under their skin in the early minutes of the game, "We had to ride out the early storm today and eventually the boys had to pull themselves together to keep a clean sheet. We wish all the luck to these youngsters who would make it big in the future."