In defence of their title, Mahindra United had to endure 79 minutes of frustration before Chirag United’s citadel fell. NP Pradeep defied gravity with a superb leap after racing in to meet Steven Dias’s corner-kick with a booming header.
Having missed an earlier opportunity because Mohammed Rafi was not exactly on song, Mahindra United ensured that they were spared the stress of additional work on Monday evening to reach the Federation Cup quarterfinal.
Despite the unequal nature of the contest, the way Chirag United fought made for an interesting start to India’s club cup. Yusif Yakubu’s applauding Dutta — the team’s fourth choice goalkeeper — for racing back to tip over his long-distance effort showed that the Kolkata team were ‘out-sized’ all right but far from disgraced in defeat.
The good thing about Chirag United was that they were not afraid to look into the eyes of India’s most expensive team.
The discipline with which they kept their defensive shape was commendable. What was even more interesting was that Dutta’s young team also had a plan to hit on the break.
First, Maduako Francis sped past N S Manju but failed to keep his balance and, then, Thoedore Wrobeh went around Peter Siddique and, unfortunately for the underdogs, around Sandip Nandy’s goal as well. After the hour-mark and between a barrage of Mahindra United attacks, they even forced two corner-kicks and as many free-kicks just outside the area.