Mahindra United, assured of their maiden National Football League crown much ahead of the tournament's conclusion, were undeterred despite being reduced to ten men and outsmarted Air India 2-0 in their NFL tie at the Cooperage ground in Mumbai on Tuesday.
Mahindras, who booked the title on Monday itself following East Bengal's defeat against Sporting Club de Goa, were without the services of their custodian Subashish Roy Chowdhury for the entire second half but sailed through smoothly against the fellow Mumbai outfit.
The jeepmen scored once in each half through Surajit Bose (15th minute) and captain Shanmugam Venkatesh (69th), later declared the man of the match, in a slow-paced encounter.
A virtually unmarked Bose took control of a chip into the box by Yusif Yakubu to beat Air India custodian Raju Ekka and put Mahindras 1-0 up. Venkatesh then slotted home an angular shot from the right following another lofted pass into the box at his feet by substitute Steven Dias soon after the latter had replaced Rauf Khan to seal Air India's fate.
In between these goals and during the time added in the first half Mahindra goalkeeper Chowdhury was sent off after his second booking in the match by referee S Suresh for handling the ball outside the penalty area. Earlier, the player had foolishly handled a back pass and argued with the referee when he awarded an indirect free-kick inside the penalty box to the rival team and was promptly booked.
The victory boosted Mahindras' points tally to 35 with two ties in hand while Air India remained on 15 points after as many matches.
Mahindras, thus, avenged their first leg defeat at the hands of their local rivals who ran out of steam today after the first twenty minutes. Venkatesh and David Ahjei constantly supplied the Mahindras frontline with forward passes. Air India had two clear looks at their rivals' goal within the first twenty minutes but on both occasions they were foiled by Chowdhury before he was given the marching orders.
In the NFL second division, Tata Football Academy beat Coca Cola Churchill Brothers 2-1 to make its maiden entry into the National Football League first division, along with the latter.
With this win, TFA topped the points tally with 12 points earned by four wins and a loss.
The Goan outfit, despite tasting defeat in the final round of the second division, entered the first division by the virtue of occupying second place in the table. They have ten points from five matches with three wins, one loss and a draw.