Defending champions Mahindra United stamped their class by handing former champions Mohun Bagan, Kolkata a humiliating 4-1 defeat in a third round match of the ONGC 11 th National Football League.
The Mumbai 'Red Devils' after falling in arrears, showed great character and tremendous fighting spirit as they uncorked some vintage stuff thereafter, to not only claw their way back into the match, but to completely outplay their Kolkata opponents.
The Mahindra players perfectly carried out the instructions of coach Derrick Pereira, who had planed some shrewd stratagies. He started with three strikers – Ghanaians Yusif Yakubu and Andrews Mensah and Indian striker Manjit Singh – to exploit the chinks in the depleted Bagan defence. The Kolkata side missed the services of injured Brazilian Eduardo Chacon Coelho Lacerda 'Du' and Sanjeev Kumar Maria serving a one match suspension after he received red card in the previous match against JCT.
He also employed a 4-5-1 formation when on the defensive to crowd the midfield and as he did not want to provide Bagan's deadly strike force of Brazilian Jose Ramirez Barretto and India's Baichung Bhutia the space to manoeuvre inside the Mahindra territory and the plans worked in favour of the team.
Bagan unable to break the shackles of the crowded Mahindra defence were forced to play second fiddle. However a slight lapse in concentration by the Mahindra defenders saw Bagan seize the opportunity to forge ahead.
Barretto intercepted N P Pradeep's weak clearance and sent Surajit Bose in the clear on the right. The later advanced and floated the ball into the Mahindra penalty area for Bhutia who made no mistake as he rose high to firmly head past goalkeeper Sandip Nandy. This was the first goal for Bhutia and Bagan in three NFL matches.
Mahindra looked unfazed by that setback, instead that goal seemed to bring the best out of them and in a span of 10 minutes they scored three goals to take firm control of the match.
Mahindra drew level in the 25th minute when K Ajayan sent a swerving cross into the Bagan box. Mahindras new recruit Mensah beat his marker and his headed went in after brushing the hand of goalkeeper Sangram Mukherjee. Four minutes Mahindras skipper Yakubu was alert to snatch the lead for his team. After Bagan defender Deepak Modal miskicked the ball his teammate Fabio Cotez Vidal charged to clear the ball, but Yakubu swooped on the opportunity to guide the ball into the net.
Yakubu once again showed alertness six minutes later to score his second goal. Surkumar Singh's powerful free-kick from the edge of the box saw goalkeeper Mukherjee block. But Yakubu was quick to pounce on the rebound and tap home.
Barretto could have reduced the margin but he shot over close just before the half-time whistle.
Although there was not much goalmouth action after the change of ends, Mahindra continued to hold sway.
Bagan tried their best to get back in the match and switched tactics with Barretto moving in the nidfield to control their attacks but they could hardly put pressure on the compact Mahindra defence.
Yakubu could have got a hat-trick had he not wasted a penalty which awarded by referee Dinesh Nair after Steven Dias was fouled inside the goal area by defender Bijoy Basfore. He, however, made amends when he deftly chipped across for Abhishek Yadav to head in the fourth goal in injury time.
Mahindra United 4 (Andrews Mensah 25th min, Yusif Yakubu 29 th min, 35th min, Abhishek Yadav 90+4) bt Mohun Bagan 1 (Baichung Bhutia 17th min).