MUMBAI: Hardip Singh hit the third blow for Chirag United, bulging the net with a booming right-footed shot into the roof and sending Mahindra United reeling to a 3-1 defeat at the 2nd ONGC I-League Football 2008-09.
Coming on as a substitute, he turned the match around for the Kolkata team with a display of tireless running and elegant passing at the Cooperage, as the mighty Mumbai side lost its way in a home game.
Subair Muritala Ali and Gauranga Dutta were the others on the mark for CU.
Sushil Kumar Singh placed MU ahead with a diving 10th minute header, anticipating a pull-back from Steven Dias.
Chidi Edeh messed up a chance after over-running a ball in the goalmouth, with the Chirag goalkeeper helpless and waiting for the striker to react.
The Mumbai team knitted together many moves and looked like slipping into the next gear.
Captain Ajayan and Sukhwinder Singh kept the strikers Chidi and Sushil busy, supported by Steven and Paresh Shivalkar hovering on the flanks.
Striker Subair gave MU the first scare, reaching the end of a long diagonal and turning defender Pradeep inside out with body feints, but hit across the goalmouth.
The lanky forward struck seconds into the second half with a deft lob — catching goalkeeper Subhashish Chowdhury by surprise.
Hardip had already made his presence felt by then, helping the defence and showing the mobility and energy to hit passes for forwards to chase down ball against a sluggish MU defence.
Gauranga followed up a shot coming off the post with a header to put the Kolkata team up.
Sushant Mathew, Thoi Singh and Mohd Rafi came on as substitutes, introduced by MU coach Derrick Pereira to bring about urgency and efficiency.
Mathew and Thoi made a difference, but with Chidi unable to make an impact and the CU defence winning aerial passes hit into the goalmouth, the Kolkata team gained courage to launch a counter-attack down the left.
Subair gained possession around the box, snaked his way past the defenders and released the ball into Hardip’s path.
The former JCT player, overlapping on the right, slipped into free space for the pass, trapped and hit into the roof of the net first-time.
Chirag had lost to East Bengal 1-3 in the first round at home while Mahindra went down 1-2 to Churchill Brothers in an away match at Goa.