Mahindra favourites against Tollygunge
Mumbai champions Mahindra United will play their first away-match of the seventh National Football League, sponsored by the Oil and Petroleum Public Sector Unit (OPPSU), against Manaksia Tollygunge Agragami at the Salt Lake stadium in Kolkata on Thursday.
It should be an easy outing for the Mumbai side before they take on the Kolkata league champions East Bengal on November 24, though much will depend on well their players adjust to each's play.
Mahindra had a tough time in their opening 'home' match against Bangalore's Hindustan Aeronautics, with striker R C Prakash scoring in a 1-0 victory.
The red shirts, with their new Czechoslovakian coach, Karel Stromsic, have a well-balanced squad this time, with in-form Feroze Shariff, India international Abishek Yadav and Khalid Siddiqui as their key strikers. Their defence, comprising former Mohun Bagan international Debjit Ghosh, Adartey and Petr Strnadel of the Czech Republic, too looks formidable, and with James Singh and Khalid Jamil manning the midfield, they are expected to rule the roost against the Kolkattans and pick full points.
It will be interesting to see whether Mahindra field their new defender Odartey Lawson of Ghana and 19-year-old striker Monga Aby Samson of Ivory Coast team Athletico club.
Tollygunge, who lost 0-2 to East Bengal in their opening match, have the home advantage and will depend heavily on their Nigerian recruits Akim upfront, and Isiakah in deep defence.
For Debjit, the match will be an emotional one. He had an uncertain period since last season, having
failed to find any club to play for even after winning the last NFL championship for Mohun Bagan, though he represented the country for the LG Trophy tournament in Vietnam and Busan Asian Games, and West Bengal, in the recently-concluded National championship, for the Santosh Trophy.
Mahindra coach Stromsic hasn't seen much of Tollygunge but feels the Kolkattans hold the edge because of the home support and the fact that his new-look side is still to settle down to a rhythm.
Tollygunge coach Aloke Mukherjee feels Mahindra are the superior side, but promised "fighting" game from his wards.
Complete Coverage: 7th National Football League 2002-03