HASC was clearly the underdog going into its ONGC Second Division I-League final round tie against Malabar United. And without both key men captain Xavier Vijaykumar and Nigerian striker Fredrick, the Aircraftmen looked toothless even before the start. But at the Football Stadium here on Friday, a Jotin Singh header almost at the call of half-time gave the local side a 1-0 win over the Group A topper.

Earlier, Vasco SC came from behind to edge past Sesa FC 2-1 in the opening match of the final round.

This was Malabar United's first defeat in seven matches on this ground and the team has to blame itself. It's earlier hero in the group encounters Jacken Sebastian, proved to be the worst culprit on this day, finding the post once and angling his shots wide a couple of times.

Below par performance

Coach Najeeb's boys played below par and despite having the better of the midfield proceedings failed to create openings at the goalmouth, until well into the second session. And when it did go deep into the HASC territory both Jacken and substitute Javed failed to convert the chances.

HASC, with both Xavier and Fredrick sitting out with `yellow card' suspension, showed some early flurry but the midfield promptings was unsure as both Murali and Jotin lacked direction. Youngsters Vishal Kumar and Karthigeyan adapted themselves well given a chance to start off. After Satish's (Sr) volley was saved on the second attempt by Malabar custodian Jaffer, a Rajendra Prasad floater went abegging with Satish (Jr.) failing to reach the ball.

Makes amends

But almost at the call of half-time, Jotin made amends for his early misses, heading home a Rajendra Prasad cross from the right flank, which caught the rival goalkeeper rooted.

Najeeb effected a few substitutions in the second but the pace failed to pick up until midway through when a Javed chip beat Amar Deb the HASC goalkeeper but came back off the upright and before Javed could cause any damage, stopper Jaikumar effected a goal-line save.

Jacken then twice in succession shot wide off the post with goalkeeper Amar beaten and was promptly benched. But it was not to be Malabar's day today.

Earlier, Sesa went into the lead in the 40th minute through Lezly Fernandes but Vasco thanks to two brilliant floaters from Remus Gomes snatched victory. In the 74{+t}{+h} minute Remus floated a free kick into the box and Biju Kumar towered over the defence to head home the equaliser and in the 85{+t}{+h} minute, a Remus flag kick saw Joy Ferdao nodding home the winner.

Keywords: ONGCI-League

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