A late winner from Francis Onyeama propelled Southern Samity (Kolkata) past Mumbai Tigers FC, and into the final round of the second division I-League here on Wednesday.
Southern Samity’s win sends NRB Vasco SC, Goa out of the competition. Mumbai Tigers was already assured of a spot in the next round, and will progress as the second-best team from Group ‘C’.
With five minutes of regulation time to go and the score tied at 1-1, the Kolkata side was in danger of exiting the tournament. Spurred on with the knowledge that nothing less than a win will suffice, a sense of urgency finally emerged. From the flank, the ball curled high into the penalty box, and as the tired Mumbai Tigers defence made a weak attempt to avert danger, Nigerian striker Onyeama rose well above everyone around him and headed the ball home.
Mumbai Tigers — head coach Mahesh Lotlikar chose to play his stars like Mohammad Rafi and Prakash Shivalkar as substitutes — then nearly pulled level. Just before full-time, Rafi received a cross from Shivalkar, and the former effected a glancing header which was expertly tipped over the bar by goalkeeper Naseem Akhtar.
Earlier in the match, Southern Samity took the lead through Sovan Chakraborty, before a delightful sequence of passes between Shivalkar, Bikash Jairu and Rafi led to an equaliser.
The final round will begin here on March 30.
Eagles FC 2 (Rino Anto, T.S. Satheesan) drew with Hindustan FC 2 (Andrea Silva, Mahener Singh); Mumbai Tigers FC 1 (Mohammed Rafi) lost to Southern Samity 2 (Sovan Chakraborty, Francis Onyeama).
Final standings (played, win, draw, loss, goal difference, points): 1. Southern Samity, Kolkata (7, 5, 2, 0, +6, 17); 2. Mumbai Tigers FC (7, 5, 1, 1, +7, 16); 3. NRB Vasco SC, Goa (7, 5, 1, 1, +6, 16); 4. Kalighat Milan Sangha FC, Kolkata (7, 3, 1, 3, +10, 10); 5. South United FC, Bangalore (7, 2, 1, 4, -1, 7); 6. Eagles FC, Kerala (7, 1, 2, 4, -8, 5); 7. Hindustan FC, New Delhi (7, 1, 1, 1, 5, -7, 4); 8. Luangmual FC, Mizoram (7, 1, 1, 5, -14, 4).