Nima Tamang and Nongmeithem Bonison Singh struck to put the visitors ahead early in the first half. Ozone pulled one back through Anto Xavier, but they couldn’t quite find that elusive equaliser despite dominating possession and seeing a lot of chances come their way.

The result left Fateh Hyderabad at the top of four-team Group C with nine points from five matches, one more than Kenkre FC who play Pride Sports (0) on Friday.

Ozone are third in the group with seven points from five matches.

For Ozone to qualify, other results must go their way. They will hope Kenkre FC lose to Pride on Friday, and they then have to beat them in their last match on Feb 24 in Mumbai. The other way Ozone can make it through is if they beat Kenkre on Feb 24 and Hyderabad lose their last fixture against Pride Sports.

A win on Thursday would have seen Ozone progress, but they were pegged back in the third minute itself. Tamang miscued a shot off Manoj Swamy’s cross from the left, which looped over Ozone goalkeeper Nikhil Bernard.

Ozone had more chances later in the first half, but failed to convert. Their comeback hopes were all but over when Hyderabad doubled the lead in the 23rd minute.

Manoj turned provider, firing a cross from the left to the anticipating strikers in the box. Bernard looked to punch the cross away, but Bonison Singh got there before the goalkeeper could and found the top left corner.

Anto gave Ozone hope when he made the most of a scuffle in the box. In the 40th minute, Ozone had shouts for a handball, following a corner by Vignesh D, turned down. But amidst the cries for a penalty, the ball ricocheted off a couple of Hyderabad defenders and landed at Anto, who completed a routine tap-in.

Ozone pushed for the equaliser after the break. They brought on attacking substitutes —Satish Kumar (46th) replacing Pradeep Mohanraj and striker Vignesh Gunashekar coming off for Vignesh D in the 59th minute. However, Vignesh was too profligate.

Satish also had a wonderful one-two combination with Durga Boro in the 74th minute but the striker’s attempt was blocked by a Hyderabad defender who collided with his own goalkeeper, Kunzang Bhutia, to nullify the threat. Bhutia suffered a concussion as a result of the crash too and was replaced by Anand Mohan subsequently.

Frustration got to the Ozone team. Coach Bert Zuurman was warned for aiming a spare ball, meant to be cleared out of play, towards the fourth official. The strikers meanwhile squandered the long precise balls that were powered in by Ozone defender Vivekananda S from the left. CS Sabeeth in particular had a great first touch to one such ball five minutes before time, but instead of going for the goal with his left foot, he looked to pass it to a teammate and the chance was lost.

(Credit: Bangalore Mirror)

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