Jeepmen run out of fuel against Al Nejmeh
Sep 19: Mahindra United club failed to capitalise an early lead and their home advantage as they lost 1-2 to Lebanese Al Nejmeh club in the first leg of the AFC Cup quarterfinal tie at the Ambedkar stadium here on Tuesday night.
Spirited Al Nejmeh players who are observing fasts due to Ramzan period put up a fine show and rallied to beat their opponents in a keenly contested match. Lebanese National player Mohammed Gaddar scored a brace (55 th and 85 th minute) helped his team to earn full points from their away match. Mahindra United’s Mohammed Rafi 46 th minute strike from a goalmouth ruckus infused first blood for the Mumbai outfit but couldn’t hold onto the lead.
Mahindra appeared to be a better lot right from the start and were not lucky enough to score goals on numerous opportunities that came in their way. On the other hand Al Nejmeh, got only two apparent opportunities and they made no mistake pouncing upon them to pocket the match.
It was a good chance for Mahindra to corner the glory after their loss to East Bengal in the Federation Cup last week and it looked that the Mumbai Jeepmen had put the defeat behind as they started the match on an attacking mode but ran out of fuel to sustain the impetus.
Mahindra came close to open their account in the 18th minute when N.P. Pradeep’s header from a Steven Dias cross, was thwarted away by Nejmeh custodian Abdo Tahef. Ten minutes later Dias raced into the box with a solo effort but delayed his shot and the opportunity went begging.
At the stroke of lemon break, Mahindra got yet another chance when their Ghanaian forward Andrew Pomeyie trapped a long ball on top of the box and cut through two defenders but shot it wide.
On changing the ends, Mahindra long wait for the goal came to an end as Mohammed Rafi scored in from a goalmouth melee from a rebound by goalkeeper Tahef.
Mahindra failed to grasp their lead and ten minutes later Nejmeh’s Mohammed Gaddar restored parity for his team. The forward received a long ball and dodged past two defenders Harpreet Singh and Manjeet Singh and drove past goalie Subhasish Roy Chowdhury.
Lebanese international Gaddar broke the deadlock in the 85th minute from a header to seal the victory in Al Nejmeh's favour.
Mahindra will take on the Al Nejmeh in their away match in Lebanese capital Beirut on September 25 in the second leg of the AFC quarterfinal and they will have to pull out a big victory to qualify for the semifinals.
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