Upstaging defending champions Chennai Customs 2-1, AGORC took off to the best possible start to the campaign. The scoreline, though, does partial justice to the domination they enjoyed, as AGORC overwhelmed Customs in most of departments of the game, as the latter struggled to cope up with the absence of their linchpin striker M Ramesh.
The former champions conjured nothing spectacular, but were constructively efficient. Their midfield especially was superlative, vibrant and industrious. NR Vinoth Kumar’s switch from the right flank to centre forward seemed an inspired tactical decision, as Kumar stamped himself against a resourceful and experienced defensive unit. He got himself into wonderful positions and at times created chances out of nothing. His work-rate was as impressive, and understandably both their goals originated from his attempts. His stroked the ball to the top right of the post from a tight angle only to be palmed off by goalkeeper Selva Kumar—he did commendably as the ball dipped and swerved. But the ensuing corner was efficiently headed in to give AGORC the lead in the 11th minute. Though Customs equalised 19 minutes further through a penalty by M Satish Kumar, AGORC weren’t affected so much to the extend of panic. T Karthik’s handball that resulted in the spot kick was an aberration of an otherwise stodgy defensive effort. But four minutes into the second half, another header from another corner after another save off Vinoth’s swipe reclaimed them the lead. Selva Kumar again denied Vinoth’s sliding strike, but their Rwandan recruit Murorimana Jean Luc powerfully tucked home the floated-in corner.
Thereafter, AGORC took complete control of the game, though not converting the chances that beckoned them. Vinoth again was influential while Jean Luc impressed with his nip and energy, thus atoning for a blasé first-half performance. But central to their penetrative prowess was the vision of their midfield, and this was clearly the single aspect wherein they scored over Customs. Thus AGORC set an ominous portent for Customs’ title retention bid.