The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ekeh hattrick ensures win for Mohun Bagan
- National League l Bhutia injury sours city giants’ fine show in Bangalore

Bangalore: Mohun Bagan came back to winning ways in the National Football League (NFL) with a facile 3-1 win over HAL Monday. Liberian striker George Ekeh scored his second hattrick of the league to ensure full points for the defending champions.

After Kenneth Onu had given the Bangalore side the lead, Ekeh scored in the 13th, 38th and 82nd minutes to shut out HAL. With this win, they have nine points from six games while HAL stay at four from five .

Desperate to keep the disappointment of the loss to arch-rivals East Bengal behind, the Bagan boys took their game up by a few notches.

However, Onu gave the local side the lead somewhat against the run of play when he finished a move initiated by Isfaq Ahmed and Raja Baliev Nurlan.

But their joy was short-lived as Bagan came roaring back four minutes hence with Ekeh scoring of a solo-effort.

However, Indian captain Bhaichung Bhutia, recuperating from a muscle injury, sustained another blow in the 42nd minute and had to be taken off. According to a Mohun Bagan official, the injury could force him out for a period.

The HAL team trying desperately to restore parity, created a couple of openings early in the second session, but they frittered away those chances.

Mohun Bagan organised themselves well and started taking control over the match. Ekeh, the Man of the Match, completed his hattrick converting a Sunil Chettry pass. They could have scored a couple of more goals, had the HAL ’keeper Mark Mascrenhas not come in the way.

However Basudeb Mondal and Ekeh earned bookings in the 42nd and 73rd minutes. The Liberian striker missed the match against East Bengal with two bookings and the team had to pay dearly. So the coach has to ensure that Ekeh does not lose his cool so often, because he is too important a player to lose in these crunch matches.

Churchill beat ITI

Churchill Brothers beat ITI, Bangalore, 2-0 in another NFL match at the Nehru Stadium in Margao Monday.

Just when it seemed that the match was heading towards a barren end, Yusif Yakubu and Roque Barreto scored in the 80 and 85th minutes to give full points to the Goa side. They now have seven points from six games while ITI languish at the bottom with two.

Both the teams dished out listless soccer in the first half but showed more urgency in their second. Churchill came close to conceding goals in at least three occasions, but ’keeper Edward Ansah kept the citadel intact.

However, they shot into the lead when substitute Francis Coelho relayed the ball to Roque on the right and his measured cross was superbly met by Yakubu. Five minutes later, Yakubu set Roque up inside the box who eluded defender Dhanesh and unleashed a powerful left-footer that found the back of the net.

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