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Chirag United rallied splendidly from a goal in arrears to beat fancied Mahindra United 3-1 and hand them their second successive defeat in as many matches in the I-League football tournament at the Cooperage in Mumbai on Saturday.
For Chirag, the newly-promoted side from Kolkata, it was their first victory after losing to East Bengal in their opening match.
Durand Cup champions Mahindra went ahead in the ninth minute when Sushil Kumar [Images] Singh headed the ball home, but they were hard-pressed for the remainder of the first half.
After Muritala Ali restored parity for Chirag immediately on resumption in the second session, the Mumbai side was found wanting in midfield. The Chirag medios repeatedly split the Mahindra defence and went ahead in the 52nd minute through Gauranga Datta and held then ascendancy.
First-half substitute Hardeep Singh, formerly of JCT, sealed the issue when he found the net following a pass from Ali three minutes from the final whistle.
After playing second fiddle for most part of the opening stanza, Chirag dominated the latter half with speedy thrusts from the flanks and deservedly emerged victors.
Mahindra went ahead in the 13th minute when Sushil Kumar Singh nodded home from close range a measured cross from the right flank by Steven Dias.
Had Mahindra's Nigerian striker Chidi Edeh not fluffed a goalmouth cross from Sukhbir Singh two minutes later, things could have panned out differently for the home team.
The introduction of Hardeep Singh for an ineffective R Dhanarajan in midfield in the 32nd minute galvanised the visiting team's forward line.
The change of ends saw a totally different picture with Chirag running the local team ragged and it was a quicksilver move on the right flank that caught the Mahindra defence napping in the opening minute after resumption of play.
Gaurang Dutta outpaced the defensive line to pass the ball to Ali, who simply lofted it over an advancing Mahindra custodian Subashish Chowdhury to bring Chirag level.
It was Dutta's speed and opportunism that got Chirag their second goal in the 53rd minute. He came charging in to connect with a sliding motion a goalmouth centre from the left by Chakraborty. The ball hit the underside of the bar but he immediately rose to head it home.
After losing a good chance to draw level when Dias's free-kick hit the post ten minutes later, Mahindra became desperate for a goal and then fell further behind.
Ali bamboozled the defence on the left of the box and sent in a cross which was finished with an angular shot by Hardeep, the ball going in off the post.
Mahindra coach Derrick Pereira blamed his midfield for the stunning reverse.
"Our midfield did not play well. We lost the match because we left lot of gaps in the midfield. We need to combine as a team," Pereira said after the match.
He, however, sounded optimistic about his team's chances in the I-League after two losses in successive matches.
"We have to play well in the remaining matches", he said.
Victorious Chirag coach Subroto Bhattacharya hailed his team's fighting spirit against a top team like Mahindra.
"I'm very happy to win the match. We really fought hard to win it," he said.
He discounted the notion that his team was overwhelmingly dependent on their foreign striker Subair Muritala Ali.
"Muritala played an important role, but others also did their best," he said, adding the team needs to improve its defence ahead of their next game against Churchill Brothers.
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