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Mahindra, Salgaocar notch up easy victories
- DURAND CUP l TFA, Army XI shown the door; Md. Sporting need win in last group tie

New Delhi: It was not the day for the sporting underdog in the 116th Durand Cup football tournament. Reigning Federation Cup champions Mahindra United cantered to a 2-0 win over last year’s runners-up Army XI in a group A league match. In a group C encounter current Goa league champions Salgaocar rallied to trounce a zestful but inexperienced Tata Football Academy (TFA) 4-1.

Both the losers, Army XI and TFA, have been eliminated from the tournament. In group A Army XI, the giant killers in the last edition of the meet, have lost both their matches. TFA in group C have finished with one point from two matches. In group A both Mahindra United and five-time champions JCT are in the fray for a semi-final berth with one win each. Mahindra have a marginally superior goal difference, having beaten Army XI 2-0, whereas JCT won against the same opponents 2-1.

In contrast Salgaocar are topping Group C, with three points from one match. Mohammedan Sporting, are on one point after their opening day 1-1 draw with TFA. The Calcutta side thus needs to beat Salgaocar in their final encounter on Wednesday to progress to the semi-finals.

Oozing confidence, following their triumph in an international tournament in the Maldives recently, Mahindra United rested three of their four players who represented India in the Afro-Asian Games in Hyderabad. International midfielders S. Venkatesh and James Singh and striker Abhishek Yadav were all used as second half substitutes. Mahindra still controlled proceedings with their new recruits from Air India, Steven Dias and Syed Altafuddin combining well with Togo’s international striker Raphael Patron.

After Altafuddin struck the bar in the 27th minute, Patron dribbled past two defenders and scored in the 33rd minute. It was a fine goal. Four minutes later Army XI defender Johnny Gangmei’s mistimed clearance, fell near Altafuddin who placed in.

With three current international midfielders, in their playing eleven, Salgaocar played with gusto. Nippy Tomba Singh, Jatin Bist and Climax Lawrence controlled midfield and excelled in their side’s 4-1 win. Coach Savio Madeira was also pleased that the new Nigerian recruit Felix Ibrebru, functioned effectively both as a striker and playmaker.

TFA started briskly and scored in the seventh minute. Midfielder Chitrasen Chandan Singh’s powerful shot rebounded to striker Vimal Pariyar, who scored with a crisp and low shot.

Gradually Salgaocar took over control by compressing the field and denying TFA opportunities to play their one-touch, speedy football. After a combined move,

The Goa club equalised in the 39th minute, when Tomba on the left edge of the box, trapped a loose ball and scored with a swerving right footer to the far post.

In the 53rd minute, an error prone TFA defence did not see left back Bello Rasak sneak in from the blind side during a corner kick. Rasak rose above the static defence and nodded home. TFA applied the pressure, but midfielder Bimal Birwa shot wide from close and Pariyar’s angular shot struck the crosspiece.

Substitute Samson Singh scored twice in the 77th and 79th minutes, to complete the tally. He latched onto Ibrebro’s through and scored with an angular placement. Later he deflected in a rebound, after left midfielder’s Dharamjit Singh's try was partially cleared.

TUESDAY’s fixtures

East Bengal vs Indian Bank, Chennai; Air India vs Jammu and Kashmir Bank.

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