Mumbai-based Mahindra United on Saturday registered their maiden title triumph in the Federation Cup football tournament beating Mohammedan Sporting 1-0 in an exciting final in Kolkata.
After being at the receiving end of continuous Sporting raids in the first half, Mahindra struck the winner late in the second session to emerge champions in the country's premier knock-out soccer tournament at the flood-lit Salt Lake Stadium.
S Venkatesh, who otherwise had a lean day, netted the all-important goal in the 78th minute to dash the hopes of around 65,000 Sporting supporters.
A centre from the left by substitute Mongba Aby Samson found James Singh in the clear at the right.
James kept the ball on top of the box for an onrushing Venkatesh, whose right footer rebounded off a rival defender.
James' second attempt was then fisted by an advancing Sporting custodian K M Rafeek, but only as far as Venkatesh, who scored with a rising, rasping right footer.
Earlier, the well contested opening session saw both the sides launching a series of raids, though Sporting held the upper hand both in terms of ball possession and number of positive chances.
With both the teams failing to break the deadlock before the breather and gradually losing steam, the second half became comparatively lacklustre as the players looked a trifle exhausted.
Mahindra, who had lost two earlier chances to lift the Cup in 1991 and 1993 respectively, proved third time lucky.
The locals, who came close to win the cup after a gap of 19 years, paid for poor finishing and lack of precision at the rival goalmouth, more so in the opening half.
Sporting, who had most of their attacks spearheaded by the hard working and crafty Bongo Singh, got at least seven close look-ins at the opponent's goal.
In the 21st minute, Syed Rahim Nabi essayed a curling centre from the right, but the lanky Sanjib shot skywards from inside the box despite being in the clear and having all the time in the world.
The TFA product was the culprit yet again seven minutes later, when he failed to unleash a proper shot after skipper Dipendu Biswas nicely chested down an Amjad Ali Khan centre.
Sanjib's weak effort was easily collected by Mahindra custodian Sunder Rajan.
In between, Arun Malhotra saved the Mumbai outfit from a sure goal. Following a Sanjib pass, an onrushing Bongo entered deep into the Mahindra box, but Malhotra made a spectacular last minute tackle to dispossess Bongo as the ball rolled over the goal-line.
Mahindra began well, but their attack faded out near the Sporting goalmouth as their reliable striker Raphael Patron was policed to submission by young Madhab Das.
The Sporting defender, who found his name in the starting line-up in place of Nigerian Habib Adekunle who picked up a red card in the semifinal - put up a brilliant display.The Mahindra raids originated mainly from the left where James Singh put up another dazzling performance combining well with Jules Alberto Dias.