Sporting Clube de Goa striker MacPherlin Dudu Omagbemi continued to torment defending champions Mahindra United. The Nigerian striker Dudu, once again was on target to lead the Goans to a 1-0 win over the Mumbai 'Red Devils' in a fourth round match of the ONGC 11th National Football League (NFL) at the Cooperage ground on Monday.
Dudu had scored on both occasions when the Goans won by an identical 1-0 margin against the champion outfit Mahindra United in both, the Federation Cup semifinals and the Durand Cup.
On Monday Dudu punished the Mahindra defence by slotting home Rajesh Meetei's free-kick from the right in the 42 nd minute. Therafter, the Goans hung on grimly to that lone strike to notch their maiden NFL win in four outings after having lost two and draw the other. For Mahindras, who had started off with two wins and a draw, this was their first defeat.
Mahindras certainly did not deserve to win. They were unable to stitch together a single decent move and seldom troubled the rival defence. Like in the pervious match against Mohun Bagan, which they won 4-1, they started with three strikers. But with the forwards, Yusif Yakubu, Andrews Mensah, both from Ghana and Indian international Manjit Singh, receiving little support from the midfield they hardly tested the rival goalkeeper Luis Barretto.
Instead the Goans put a much better display. The forwards Dudu and Jeremaih Ernest worked in tandem with the half-line to take the fight to the Mumbai side. Wilton Gomes, Khabra Harmanjot, Nicolau Borges and Joseph Pereira, who was later adjudged man-of-the-match, did not permit the Mahindra United strikers the space and the opportunity to manouvere inside their territory.
Dudu created the first opportunity for Sporting to have a shy at goal. He broke free down the left and sent a dangerous cross into the Mahindra box. But, Borges failed to direct his header on target in the 27 th minute.
However, Dudu found success in the 42nd minute when he capitalised on a defensive lapse. Following Meetei's free-kick from the right, Dudu unmarked at the far side of the penalty area did well to punt the ball past a hapless Mahindra goalkeeper Sandip Nandy to give his side a first-half 1-0 lead.
Sporting Clube did well to defend their slender lead after the change of ends. They came up with quick tackles and did allow the Mahindra attackers to control the ball and get into a rhythm. Felip Gomes and Samananda Singh showed solidity at the back to keep the rival attackers at bay.
Mahindras desperate to find the equaliser, showed greater urgency in the second sessions and had two chances at the rival. First Mensah fired wide a free-kick from the edge of the box and later Yukubu's header off Steven Dias' cross brushed the horizontal bar and went over the goalline.
Mahindras went all out in search of goal and played long aerial balls into the rival territory, but the stubborn Goan defenders were not prepared to cave in and ensured that their goal stayed intact to troop out worthy winners.
"We did not play to our plan, said a disappointed Mahindra United coach Derrick Pereira at the post match press conference. "The conditions did not suit our play. The windy conditions did not allow us to play constructive football. We were unable to keep control of the ball upfront and the defence was not compact and made too many mistakes."
"The defenders took the opponents very lightly and failed to keep the Sporting strikers under control. The goal, which we conceded was because the defence failed to follow the ball and had left Dudu open," admitted Pereira.
"The players put up a better performance in the second half. But they defended well and the negative tactics employed by them did not allow us to get back into the match."
However, Mahindra United manager Henry Menezes pointed out that they were denied of an equaliser when Yakubu's header bounced off the horizontal bar. "If Yakubu's try had been on target, then we would added pressure on them and gone for a win," said Menezes.
Sporting Clube coach Clifford Chukwuma glad that his team finally got a win. "I'm really happy with today's result," said Chukwuma.
"The boys have proved that they are champion material. They beat a champion team like Mahindra United and that too on their home ground."
"This win will boost the morale of the boys and for us the league has just began," he said, adding "I have told the boys to forget about what happened in the earlier three matches and to start afresh."
"We have to start winning out the next few matches and we will surely close in on the leaders and climb to the top,: he said.