Subhasish Roy Choudhury's game ending heroics helped Mahindra United escape to a nerve tingling 2-1 victory against a rampaging East Bengal in the 18th round I-League match at the Cooperage in Mumbai on Friday. The two sides had shared two goals in the drawn first leg encounter.
The red devils' custodian made three vital saves in the last five minutes as the red & gold outfit from Kolkata hunted feverishly for the equaliser after Chidi Edeh had put them ahead with two penalty conversions in the 54th and 70th minutes to neutralise the stunning volley by India spearhead Sunil Chettri in the 50th minute.
Choudhury denied substitute Malsawmkima, Surkumar Singh and finally a blinder by substitute Parveen Kumar all in quick succession but that failed to get him the man of the match award which had already been decided in favour of the Nigerian brace man.
Their sixth win takes the jeepmen zooming up to fourth position, their best this season, with 24 points while the former three-time champions, who missed three key players today, slide down to sixth but remain on 23 points.
Had the local side lost today, they would have only themselves to blame as they frittered away chances galore, the main culprits being Mohammed Rafi and Edeh, who could have helped himself to a hat-trick had he not hit the side netting four minutes before time.
Mahindra were however unlucky somewhat as Edeh's try hit the crossbar in the first half and the Kerala winger's effort grazed the post in the 79th minute.
Subhas Bhowmick's boys were lacking in creativity in the midfield with a makeshift combination on the field and veteran Alvito D'Cunha, who partnered Chhetri in the forward line, too was also off the boil.
Mahindra on their part ruled the midfield with Douhou Pierre at his imaginative best spraying killer passes time and again.
Chettri, who had an excellent strike saved by SRC in the 23rd minute off a Suley Musa lob, broke the deadlock by volleying a loose clearance in the danger area which beat SRC all ends up.
Mahindras rallied gallantly and a Meherajuddin Wadoo foul on a charging Sushant Mathew on the right brought them their first penalty. Edeh himself was tugged down by Nirmal Chettri in the same area and he again sent Abhra Mondal the wrong way from the spot kick to take his tally to six goals in the tournament.
But East Bengal were not done in yet and Sanju Pradhan's runs down the right flank almost flattened the jeepmen's tyres; but luck was on their side today and they held out till the final whistle.