| Striker Akeem Abolanle (left) and coach Krishnendu Roy were instrumental in Tollygunge Agragami’s battle for survival
Margao/Mumbai: Mohammedan Sporting’s woes came a full circle on Friday when they were relegated to the second division of the National Football League (NFL) after going down to Dempo 2-3 in their final match.
Mohammedan Sporting’s loss turned out to be an advantage for Tollygunge Agragami, who also lost to Mahindra United by similar margin but hung on to the elite league by finishing one point ahead of the black-and-white brigade.
Mohammedan Sporting finished the league with 19 points, thereby meeting with the ignominy of demoting along with Chennai’s Indian Bank. Dempo, who have already finished runners-up behind champions East Bengal, managed 45 points from 22 matches, while Mahindra finished third with 41 points.
Jamshed Nassiri’s boys , who debuted in the league this season, had to bank on a couple of factors to survive the threat of relegation. While a win against was absolute must for them, a Tollygunge Agragami loss in the hands of Mahindra United could only confirm their survival.
But Dipendu Biswas & Co. failed to rise to the occasion and instead took their task virtually out of their reach by conceding three goals. Ishfaq Ahmed dealt them massive blows in the 12th minute when he beat the Mohammedan goalkeeper Gumpe Rime after dribbling past a host of rival defenders off a pass from Mohammed Gafari.
Dempo, who clearly dominated the proceedings, could have easily gone 3-0 up in the first half itself, but Sunday Seah squandered a couple of sitters, with only Rime to beat.
Ahmed eventually extended the lead in the 55th minute. A fine move from Gafari and substitute Alex Ambrose released Ahmed in the clear, who made no mistake in translating it into a goal.
Ambrose rubbed more salts into the visitors’ wounds by finding the target in the 69th minute and by then any possibility of a Mohammedan Sporting comeback could at best be a miracle.
Syed Rahim Nabi pumped two goals in quick succession — in the 77th and 85th minutes, the second one off a penalty kick — but the fate of the debutants was already sealed by then.
At the Cooperage, it was just kind of a role-reversal for Tollygunge Agragami, who were also hanging by a thread. In the first-leg match at the Salt Lake Stadium, Krishnendu Roy’s team surprised Mahindra United 2-1 when Jiten Rai and Akeem Abolanle scored for the Calcutta outfit. The duo again found the target against the same rivals on Friday, but such efforts were not enough as Tollygunge went down 2-3 in the return leg.
Mahindra winger Syed Altafuddin opened the account when he found the mark off an S. Venkatesh cross in the 20th minute. Ten minutes later, Tollygunge equalised through Jiten.
Having equalised, Tollygunge committed the mistake of going for the kill and found themselves in trouble.
In the 35th minute, Mahindra regained lead when Raphael Patron Akakpo scored off a rebound. With five minutes to go for the interval, Altafuddin again found the target off a Felix pass. Tollygunge pulled one back in the 50th minute through a penalty. Tollygunge winger Gauranga Dutta was brought down by Mahindra goalkeeper S. Rajan, who substituted Naseem Akhtar, and Akeem converted the resultant spot-kick.