Vijay Lokapally

Boniface Ambani’s strike sinks Army XI

Sporting Clube de Goa in quarterfinals

Dias nets Mahindras’ winner

LUDHIANA: Mahindra United, the glamour club of Indian football, defeated HAL Sports Club, Bangalore and earned its rightful spot in the quarterfinals of the Federation Cup. The Mumbai outfit won 1-0 at the Guru Nanak Dev Stadium here on Wednesday, thanks to some wonderful understanding between foreign recruit Djiaja Pierre and Indian sensation Stevan Dias when scoring the match-winner.

Earlier, Sporting Clube de Goa won a tedious encounter against Army XI and secured a quarterfinal place with a 1-0 verdict. It may not have been the best result for Sporting but then Army XI did not deserve to lose by a greater margin.

Rime defies his age

Ajayan was a menace and Manas Das a pillar of strength in ‘killing’ HAL forays on the right flank. A confident N. P. Pradeep ensured there were no alarms in the Mahindra defence and the freedom that Pierre enjoyed was a factor that went against HAL. A word about Hal goalkeeper Gumpe Rime; the veteran defied his age when charging out to foil the aerial route Mahindras adopted time and again.

The goal for Mahindras came in the 10th minute when Rafi and Dico indulged in a one-two that scattered the rival defence. A desperate attempt to arrest Pierre’s movements on the top of the box failed when he set up an onrushing Dias. In one of the coolest finishes, Dias cleverly slotted the ball in. The second half began with Dias unleashing a scorcher from 35 yards that skimmed the bar; soon Rafi shot into the goalkeeper. Mahindras was more purposeful now but Pierre was very liberal, missing three sitters in a row.

Earlier, in conditions ideal for some robust football, Sporting and Army XI were guilty of slowing the pace. There were not many memorable moments in this match and the most striking one happened to be the goal-scoring act by Boniface Ambani, the gangling Kenyan who made all the difference.

Pereira sets up goal

The credit of laying the foundation for Sporting’s goal went to Joseph Pereira, who set up Ambani with a fascinating ball on the right. Ambani was quick in frustrating defender K. P. Kapui and placed the ball impeccably beyond Army goalkeeper Robikanta Singh. It was Ambani again who nearly scored with a header. The teams retired for a break with Army XI worried about keeping the margin down.

The second half was a repeat of the first. The only decent scoring chance came Ambani’s way when he outsprinted Robikanta, who left his post to challenge the Kenyan near the sideline. Ambani foxed him but his long ranger was met with a clean goalline clearance by G. S. Sandhu, who had taken the goalkeeper’s position.

Apart from Ambani, those who served Sporting well were the defenders — Muyoti, Chandrashekhar Chinto, Felip Gomes and Rajesh Meetei.

Thursday’s fixtures: Air India v Viva Kerala (4 p.m.); Mohun Bagan v ONGC (7 p.m.).

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