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Mahindra United cautious in first away match
Mario Rodrigues | February 16, 2007 16:38 IST
After a three-week hiatus to enable the national squad take part in the Olympic qualifiers, the XIth ONGC National Football League resumes, with Mohammedan Sporting taking on Mahindra United in a fifth round clash in Kolkata on Saturday.
This is the first away match for the defending champions, who are second on the table with seven points. Mohammedan Sporting are placed ninth in the ten-team league, with four points.
Former champions Dempo head the table on better goal difference while East Bengal and Air-India are third and fourth respectively, all with seven points each.
Churchill Brothers (six points), JCT FC (five points), Sporting Clube de Goa, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting (four points) and HAL (two points) follow in that order.
Several of the clubs, which had not recruited their full quota of foreigners during the first phase of the league, have used the interregnum to do so. Mahindra United, who have Yusif Yakubu and Andrews Mensah upfront, however have not yet found a foreign defensive midfielder whom they are on the lookout for.
Speaking to rediff.com on Friday from Kolkata, Mahindra United manager Henry Menezes, a former India goalkeeper, said the confusion as to where their match would be played -- at Salt Lake stadium or Barasat Stadium � has affected their mental preparation.
Their opponents, the Subhash Bhowmick-coached black-and-white brigade, have reportedly taken on a Congolese stopper back, Eric Mputu, while they are also contemplating signing a Liberian striker who is on trial. The club is also awaiting the return of Mike Okoro, who has played truant.
Meanwhile, Sporting Clube de Goa have taken on a PIO, Nicolas Nath, a former Inter-Milan junior. East Bengal too have fortified themselves with a Brazilian stopper-back, Cristiano Hilario de Oliveira. In addition, a Brazilian striker, Edmilson Marques Pardal, will provide company upfront for the lanky Kenyan import, Boniface Ambani.
With most teams now almost at peak strength as a result, the future rounds of the NFL (the schedule has been announced till the ninth round only as of now) will surely witness some concerted action in the weeks ahead.