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 March 25, 2002 | 1825 IST

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Churchill down Mahindra 3-2,
move to the top

Zee Churchill entrenched themselves atop the National Football League after beating Mahindra United 3-2 in their 17th round match at the Cooperage in Mumbai on Monday.

Yusuf Yakubu was the hero for the Goa champions, scoring all the three goals. In the process, he swelled his goal tally in the tournament to 14.

Earlier, Yakubu had scored a hat-trick against Tollygunge Aggragami when the teams met in the first leg.

Their tenth victory took Churchill to 35 points, three clear of leaders Salgaocar (18 matches) and Mohun Bagan (17 matches), who have 32 points each, and Vasco, who have 31 from 18 matches.

Mahindra stayed put on 24 points after 17 matches.

For Mahindra, Mohd Najeeb and Abhishek Yadav were the scorers.

Churchill had beaten Mahindra 2-1 in the first leg meeting in Goa, but lost to the Mumbai champions in the final of the Durand Cup in February.

In a closely-contested match, Yakubu opened his team's account in the eighth minute when he headed home mid-fielder Noel Wilson's lob.

Seven minutes later, he was bang on target again, scoring off midfielder Tejinder Kumar's header.

The speedy Ghanian completed his hat-trick and put his team up 3-0 in the 45rd minute, when he bulged the net following a pass from Iranian recruit and striker Mousavi Sayed Amin.

Mahindra had reduced the margin in the 35th minute when Mohammed Najeeb lobbed the ball over Churchill custodian Edward Ansah off defender Habib Adekunle pass.

After that goal, two minutes later, Mahindra midfielder Jules Alberto Dias's try off striker Austin Okolo's back pass hit the side bar and rebounded harmlessly. soon after, Okolo's try off defender Suresh's drive also hit the crossbar.

The teams went in for a break with the match interestingly poised and the local outfit, trailing 1-3, cursing their luck.

However, in the 84th minute substitute Abhishek Yadav, who came in for Farook Hyder in the 74th minute, scored Mahindra's second goal off another substitute, Bala Usman's pass.

The local outfit had yet another good chance soon after the half-time but Okolo's header off defender Khalid Siddique lob hit the cross bar and went out.

In the 65th minute, Okolo's try off mid-fielder S Venkatesh's pass also missed the mark.

National Football League - the complete coverage