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Final minute heartbreak for AIFF's youth brigade

A final minute Ebi Sukore header dented young AIFF XI's hopes of a well-deserved victory against Mumbai FC, at Gurgaon's Tau Devi Lal Stadium on Saturday. The hefty Nigerian's strike put the teams on an even keel after Malsawm Fela had given the Delhi team an early lead.

sports Updated: Jan 15, 2011 23:52 IST
Tomojit Basu

A final minute Ebi Sukore header dented young AIFF XI's hopes of a well-deserved victory against Mumbai FC, at Gurgaon's Tau Devi Lal Stadium on Saturday. The hefty Nigerian's strike put the teams on an even keel after Malsawm Fela had given the Delhi team an early lead.

Desmond Bulpin's AIFF XI had done admirably to hold reigning champions Dempo 1-1 in the last round. The young side, thus, were keen to maintain their record of not losing a home game this season.

Mumbai FC, coached by former India midfielder Khalid Jamil, began cautiously with little to suggest that it was the same team, which had held East Bengal 0-0 at home. The passing was scruffy and the defence struggled to cope with every Fela and Jeje Lalpekhlua incursion.

"It was a lethargic start and we were lucky to score. However, a single point is better than none," said Jamil.

AIFF XI's midfield comprising Jewel Shaikh, Jibon Singh, Subodh Kumar and Shilton D'Silva did well to supply telling passes and hold possession.

The breakthrough came when a midfield pass from Subodh found Lalpekhlua who skipped past Ghanaian Evans Quao and set up an unmarked Fela in the box. Fela calmly slotted it past a diving Nidhin Lal.

Mumbai FC settled down as the half progressed, keeping the ball on the ground and using strikers Ezeh Henry and Sukore better. Jibon came close to scoring in the 33rd minute when his corner-kick swung in dangerously but Lal managed to parry it. He had another opportunity in the 44th minute with Lal off his line but skied the effort.

Mumbai FC looked the more confident side after the breather. The midfield was strengthened by the presence of Noel Wilson, who replaced Pereira and combined well with Henry, and Sukore.

The last five minutes saw the ball in AIFF XI's half and Mumbai FC striker P.C. Lalwmpuia should have converted an 87th minute chance which had been set up for him by Henry but shot wide.

Ultimately, the pressure paid off in the final minute when a Rodrigues corner-kick swung favourably for Sukore to head past custodian Jagroop Singh.

"The team is gaining confidence but this was not our best game," said Bulpin.