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 March 9, 2002 | 1900 IST

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Vasco surprise Mahindra United

Title aspirants Vasco Sports Club, Goa, hung on to a first-half goal to get the better of Mahindra United, Mumbai, 1-0 in a 15th round match in the Tata National Football League, at the Nehru stadium in Fatorda, Goa, on Saturday.

The all-important goal was scored by Marcos Pereira in the 36th minute.

The victory took Vasco, who had lost to Mahindra 0-2 in the first leg, to the top position in the league table, with 28 points. Their Goa mates, Zee Churchill and Salgoacar, who have played a match less, have 26 points each and are in second and third places respectively.

Mahindra had a golden opportunity to draw the match two minutes before the long whistle, when Vasco's Seby Dias tripped Mahindra's Khalid Siddiqe in the danger zone. Referee Krishna Avtar promptly awarded a penalty. However, Vasco's goalkeeper Rogerio Ramos brought off a smart save off Raman Vijayan's kick, diving to his right.

Mahindra's midfield trio of Khalid Siddiqe, S Venkatesh and Jules Alberto failed to combine well and even their forwards -- Austin Okolo and Bala Usman lacked their usual sting, being well marked by the Vasco defenders.

For Mahindra, this is their third consecutive defeat. They remain on 23 points.

In a fast pace match, Vasco had the better share of the exchanges and came near scoring as early as the ninth minute, when Rui Wanderly sent a pass to Caitan Pinho, whose left footer landed straight into the hands of rival goal keeper Virender Singh.

Then, in the 17th minute, Mahindra had a chance but Jules Alberto's header missed the mark by inches, off a cross from S Venkatesh.

Vasco were further frustated in the 23rd minute, when after a combined move, V B Santosh passed to Abhay Kumar, who switched over to Pinho. But the latter's weak shot went wide.

Vasco shot into the lead in the 36th minute through Marcos Pereira after Mahindra defender Isamusa Eroje brought down Vasco's well-positioned forward Rui at the top of the box. A free-kick was awarded to Vasco. After spliting the defence wall, Marcos floated the ball into the net.

Two minutes later, Vasco had another change to increase their lead, when Abhay Kumar's power packed header, off a cross from Agnelo Colaco, crashed into the framework and deflected.

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