Thursday, Nov 20, 2003
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By Our Sports Reporter
The Mumbai giant reaffirmed its proficiency in the shootout format as it floored the seventh National Football League champion in a keenly contested encounter that ended 1-1 at the end of regulation time.
Mahindra's triumph also underlined the supremacy of Federation Cup champions in the season-ending contest between the champions of the two premier football tournaments. The four editions of the Super Cup have seen the Federation Cup winners triumphing East Bengal (1997), Salgaocar (1998) and now Mahindra while Salgaocar broke the trend in 1999 winning it as the NFL champion.
The Super Cup went out of favour for the next three seasons as the All India Football Federation failed to accommodate it in the calendar, until the seventh edition was revived this year.
The match on Wednesday pitted two teams having an international title under their belt. East Bengal won the inaugural ASEAN Club championship in Jakarta in July, while Mahindra won an international meet in Maldives last month.
East Bengal appeared slightly disadvantaged, being plagued by a long list of injuries. Despite having the home advantage, the local giant struggled to put up a cohesive show as it had to rely mainly on the bench strength that hardly filled the absence of key names likes Baichung Bhutia, Mike Okoro, Douglas da Silva, M. Suresh, Dipak Mondal and Bijen Singh.
Missing the services of a penetrative striker, East Bengal found most of its attacks falling in front of the Mahindra defence. The home team had a greater share in the midfield exchanges initially but failed to score as K. Kulothungan and Raman Vijayan struggled.
East Bengal went ahead in the 19th minute as referee S. Suresh ruled a penalty after the Mahindra skipper handled a Vijayan volley inside the box.
The equaliser came in similar fashion as Felix Aboagye converted a penalty in the 45th minute.
Mahindra had a chance to go ahead in the 61st minute, as it was awarded another penalty, but Felix sent his attempt over the bar. With the regulation 90 minutes ending 1-1, the extra time was waived and the shootout enforced.
Mahindra custodian Kalyan Choubey emerged the hero, saving the attempts of S. Malswamtulunga and Sujoy Dutta to ensure the title for his team. The Mumbai visitor had no misses as Odartey Lawson, Khalid Jamil, Jules Alberto and Abhishek Yadav converted from the spot.
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