Mahindra United seemed confident of earning the full three points from their fourth round match of the ONGC 11th National Football League against Sporting Clube de Goa. A win on Monday, at the Cooperage, will ensure that Mahindras stay at the top of the 10-team league with 10 points, ahead of East Bengal and Air India who are with seven points each.
Defending champions Mahindra United, buoyed by their fluent 4-1 win against Mohun Bagan last week, are determined to put it across the Goan team, which has not performed well in the previous three matches, losing the last one 3-2 to Dempo after leading 2-0.
Mahindras' coach Derrick Pereira intends to use the same tactics they did against Bagan. They will try to crowd the midfield and bottle up Sporting’s Nigerian strikers Dudu Omagbemi and Jermiah Earnest.
Coach Pereira is confident the midfield will once again function as expected and dominate that position to take control of the match. He feels that if the medios once again do a good job than they will be able to put pressure on the rival defence.
The Mahindra United strikers, Ghanaians Yusif Yakubu and Andrews Mensah have been bang on target in the opening three matches, with the later scoring in every game.
The Goans have a stiff challenge to overcome as the last time they played on this ground they squandered a narrow lead by conceding a late goal in a 1-1 draw with Air India, the second NFL team from Mumbai.
And they will feel the absence of Bello Rasaq who is serving a one-match suspension after receiving a red card against Dempo. That will create a void in the midfield as Rasaq has worked tirelessly to create openings for the strikers.
Pereira was optimistic of his team’s chances. “We have a good chance to bag three points. This is our home match and the boys have been shaping well,” he said after Sunday’s practice session.
“We will miss K Ajayan (out on account of two yellow cards) but S Venkatesh will replace him. Other than that I will not alter the starting eleven and hope the boys execute the plans perfectly,” said Pereira.
“I also hope that the strikers capitalise on the chances that come up and put the Sporting defense under pressure.”
“Our defenders will also have to combine well to keep the Sporting attackers at bay. Sporting are a well-organised side and they are capable of tearing down any defence,” said Pereira.
Sporting coach Clifford Chukwama was wary of the Red Devils. “Mahindras are a good team, capable of beating any team in the country,” said Chukwama.
“The losses in the previous matches haven’t affected the boys, but we will miss the services of Belo Razaq who picked a silly red card in the last match. We will also be making two changes to the team that played in the last match against Dempo. The boys played brilliantly and took an early 2-0 lead. But, suddenly the defence made a couple of costly mistakes and the loss of Belo resulted in our eventual defeat.”
“Although my team has not been getting positive results, I’m confident of them of putting up a good show against Mahindra United,” said Chukwama.