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 November 17, 2002 | 2117 IST

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Mahindra United scrape past HAL

Strong contenders Mahindra United were saved the blushes by striker R C Prakash in a solitary goal victory over Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in their opening match of the National Football League at the Cooperage in Mumbai on Sunday.

The game was notable for two more reasons - Mahindra United's Czech midfielder Petr Strandel, on who the corporate body will be spending about Rs 1.5 million this season, was unable to stand the heat and was stretchered out in the second-half.

Earlier, Goan referee Benjamin D'Silva applied the latest World Cup rule and flashed a yellow card to HAL striker Kenneth Ony from Kenya for faking a foul in Mahindra's box in order to get a penalty.

Prakash made amends for missing two possible chances in the opening quarter of the match. In the 22nd minute, Mahindra captain Anthony Pereira lobbed over an extra enthusiastic HAL cluster in his own half. Abhishek Yadav gave an instant forward pass, which Prakash accepted with gusto, and on entering the box, kicked the ball on the right of goalkeeper Mark Mascarenhas.

Prakash had a similar run in the 16th minute but he hit the ball across after getting closer to the target. In the next minute Petr shot a dead ball, which gave Prakash another chance.

On resumption, HAL dominated play for the first ten minutes during which Jammu and Kashmir youngster Ishfaq Ahamed pulled the ball in from the flag area but Kenneth headed over the bar.

In the 51st minute Petr erred in a back pass, which Ishfaq snatched but hit wide. HAL's Soviet origin player Baliev Nurlan topped his game with an angular tap but this time Rajendra Prasad wasted the chance.

At this point, Mahindra's Czech coach Karel Stromsik replaced Naushad Pari with James Singh and the latter functioned well till end. Surkumar, who played his first match after missing the whole of last season, unfortunately could not convert his diving header into a goal, following a James volley.

Complete Coverage: 7th National Football League 2002-03