The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Big blow to EB's hattrick hopes

Mumbai: Mahindra United shocked East Bengal on Wednesday by a lone second-half goal to dampen the champions' chances of completing a hattrick of National Football League titles.

Abhishek Yadav, included in the India probables list for the forthcoming tour to Pakistan, rose above the East Bengal defence to precisely meet a corner from the left taken by Jatin Bisht in the 75th minute. That was quite against the run of play.

Mahindra's victory meant East Bengal remained in third place with 40 points, behind Sporting Clube de Goa (45) and Dempo (41). East Bengal have two games left, versus Vasco and Dempo. Even if they win both, they can't win the title unless Sporting and Dempo falter.

Mahindra increased their tally to 32 with one match left (against Sporting).

Sporting consolidated their position by beating the lowly State Bank of Travancore (SBT) 2-0 in Kozhikode.

It was once again the 'Dudu Magic' that gave Sporting the lead in the 52nd minute. Omagbemi neatly guided a corner from Wilton Gomes into the goal.

Eight minutes later, Fernandes Bibiano increased the lead after turning in a header off a Dudu pass as SBT's custodian, Jean Christian totally misjudged the move.

In Margao, relegation-threatened Churhcill Brothers had to come from behind to earn a point against JCT.

JCT took the lead in the 20th minute through Harvinder Singh, Churchill restored parity in the 34th minute through Marcos Pereira. Churchill, who have 22 points from 21 matches, must beat Mohun Bagan in their last tie to avoid relegation.

JCT, at No. 6, took their tally to 28 points from 21 matches.

Back to the Cooperage clash. Mahindra, who played second fiddle to East Bengal while Alvito D'Cunha was on the field, missed two sitters towards the closing stages.

East Bengal missed a chance to take the lead in the very first minute, then frittered away two other chances to score, looked a pale shadow of their confident self once the left-footed D'Cunha pulled a hamstring and was substituted in the 19th minute of the latter half.

Till then he was the fulcrum around which their forays were centred and his leaving the scene left too big a gap for East Bengal to fill in the breach effectively.

The red-and-golds were also handicapped by the indisposition of Bhaichung Bhutia, who sat on the reserve bench in the first half and did precious little after coming on as substitute. (PTI

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