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Mahindra down Air India, move to top
Mario Rodrigues | February 23, 2007 19:48 IST
It was billed as a 'revenge match' for Air-India, who were seeking to avenge their crucial Mumbai Elite division league loss to the 'Red Devils' that saw them surrender the title to their traditional rivals.
But it was Mahindra United who had the last laugh and walked away with an identical 1-0 victory, courtesy a glancing header by defender N P Pradeep, off a corner kick taken by substitute Steven Dias in the 61st minute.
Their third win in six games catapulted Mahindra United to the top of the National Football League table with 11 points, while Air-India, who suffered their second loss, were pushed down to third spot, behind Dempo, who also have 10 points.
Air India have to thank Mahindras' striker Andrews Mensah for getting away lightly as the Ghanaian striker blew away four sitters before he was pulled out in the second session by coach Derrick Pereira.
Pereira's gamble of bringing on medio Dias early in the second half put the teeth into the Mahindra attack although it took a set-piece situation to finally break down the rugged five-man Air-India defensive wall.Mahindra enjoyed the lion's share of the exchanges in the local derby, which didn't rise to expected heights.
The winners initially looked clueless as to how to pierce through the massed wall of defenders set up by their perennial bogeymen. Tricky Yusif Yakubu tried to bluff his way though but there were too many obstacles.
Mahindra today finally fielded their third foreign recruit, Mbaka Dady, but the Congolese defensive midfielder did not exactly set the wooden stands of Cooperage on fire. He did however put in a few good through balls that were not capitalized upon.
Air-India were unable to get a clear look at the rival goal, and the closest they came to scoring was from a patented long throw in by Uttam Singh that was however booted out by Suley Musah from close range.
The match was not as physical as was expected in an encounter between the two Mumbai sides, although IFA referee Subrata Sarkar had to flash yellow cards at Mensah, Musah and Air-India defender Nirmal Chettri.