Down by a first-half goal, Mahindra United staged a spirited rally to edge past a fighting ten-man JCT Mills, Phagwara, 2-1 and┬ámove to the top of the table in the 10th ONGC National Football League on Friday.
At the Nehru stadium in Fatorda, Goa, on Friday, Praveen Kumar put JCT ahead in the first half, before K Ajayan drew parity and Jose Ramirez Baretto scored the winner in the 89th minute for Mahindra United.
With their second successive victory, Mahindra United climbed to the top of the table, tallying seven points from three matches.
JCT, who suffered their first loss of this NFL campaign, have two points from three matches.
Mahindra medio A Ajayan was adjudged man of the match.
Mahindra United found their rhythm right from the start as they repeatedly probed the rival defence. Yakubu, who was instrumental in the victory over Dempo, fired the first salvo when he stretched goalkeeper Kalyan Chaubey with a dipping shot from the top of the box.
Baretto then made Chaubey pull off another save in the 16th minute. Two minutes later, the JCT citadel was saved by Preeven Kumar, who cleared a off a powerful header by Manju off a
Steven Dias flag-kick, on the goalline.
But it was JCT who got the breakthrough in the 20th minute, when Renedy Singh's high lob off a free-kick on the right was met by Praveen Kumar, who moved away from his marker to head into the net.
JCT, who looked dangerous on the counter-attack could have increased the lead but Johnson's volley off a Sukhjinder Singh pass hit the underside of the bar and bounced back into play.
JCT were reduced to ten men in the 30th minute when referee Benjamin Silva gave marching orders to defender Jaspal Singh for deliberately handling the ball following a Yakubu header that was going into the net.
However, the resultant penalty was blasted over by Yakubu, much to the joy of the JCT team.
Mahindra then camped in the rival half but JCT defended well with the whole team backing the defence to deny them the equaliser till half-time.
The Mumbai outfit continued to create moves in the second half as they piled pressure but the JCT defence stook firm and 'keeper Kalyan Chubey brought off a spectacular save off Yakubu.
However, Chaubey was beaten in the 69th minute by a 35-yard shot by Ajayan that found the far post.
Inspired by the equalizer Mahindra went all out for the match-winner and were rewarded in the 89th minute when Jose Barretto placed the ball into the far corner of the net after receiving a well-measured pass from James Singh.