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Mahindra wins Durand Cup title

Source: PTI
September 07, 2008 21:45 IST
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Refereeing error, comebacks, late goal, the final of the Osian's 121st Durand Cup had all the ingredients for a potboiler as Mahindra United pipped Churchill Brothers 3-2 through an extra-time goal to clinch the title at the Ambedkar Stadium in New Delhi on Sunday.

In the process they also avenged last year's 0-1 final loss to the same opposition and earn their first Durand title since 2001 and their third overall. 

K Thoi Singh, who replaced Izumi Arata in the 97th minute, put the finishing touches a couple of minutes later, when he got to the end of a cross from K Ajayan and placed his left-footer past Churchill Brothers' goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya.

However, the Goan side has every reason to feel aggrieved after a blunder from referee A Arjunan saw Edeh Chidi score his second goal of the match. He took his tournament's tally to five and grabbed the award for highest scorer.

The game was poised 1-1 after Chidi's 20th minute header had negated Robert Lalthlamuana's strike eight minutes earlier.

Mahindra United were awarded a free-kick in the 32nd minute and Douhou Pierre, the Ivorian who was instrumental in setting up the equaliser from another set piece, played it short for Chidi to place his left-footer to the far corner. 

Churchill Brothers were busy setting up the wall when Arjunan blew the whistle for the free-kick to be taken. Despite protests from the Goan team, the referee awarded the goal to Mahindra United.

Churchill Brothers never seemed to recover from that blow despite Okolie Odafa producing a late turn around.

The Nigerian had earlier found himself in front of goal but couldn't keep his shot on target from a Robert cross in the 71st minute. But three minutes before close, Odafa set up Churchill Brothers' equaliser.

Receiving a ball from Ogba Kalu, Odafa twisted and turned inside the box before sending a cross to the far post where substitute Savio Monteiro's header hit the underside of the crossbar and went in.

Odafa came close to score second time but saw his header brilliantly saved by Mahindra United custodian Subhasish Roy Chowdhury in the last minute of second half extra-time.

Earlier, in a move that could be termed audacious, Churchill Brothers' coach Emeka Ezeugo decided to field left full-back Robert as a striker. But the experiment was spot on with the diminutive Manipuri sneaking in from behind to control Kalu's free-kick and volleying home. He got another chance to corner glory in the 25th minute but saw his shot saved by Subhasish.

Mahindra United, who ought to have gone ahead had Izumi Arata managed to finish off skipper K Ajayan's through five minutes after kick-off, took time to get over the shock and then hit back through Chidi.

Pierre floated one inside the box and the Nigerian did well to out-jump the defenders and bury his header to the far post.

Winners of the tournament Mahindra got Rs eight lakhs, while the runners-up Churchill Brothers were given Rs six lakhs.

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