ONGC’s first half strike sinks hosts RCF as they reach the Nadkarni Cup Final

Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) reached the Final of the 108th Nadkarni Cup after seeing off hosts Rashtriya Chemicals & Fertilizers (RCF) 1-0 in the first semi-final played at the RCF Sports Club in Chembur. A first half strike from Lavino Fernandes ensured ONGC prevailed in a game they had pretty much bossed throughout the ninety minutes.

But it was the hosts who made the brighter start to the game as Raju Meetei latched on to a clearance only to scuff his shot straight at the ONGC shot stopper. Five minutes later, RCF almost took the lead through Kevin Patrick after ONGC keeper Ubaid C.K. failed to collect a cross. But he was bailed out when RCF frontman, Raju Meetei failed to make a telling connection.

ONGC had their first attempt on target a minute later, when V. Lalchuwawma’s free kick was pushed away by Narender Singh for a corner. RCF were beneficiaries of defensive lapses from ONGC again, when Kevin Patrick almost sneaked in after ONGC failed to make a regulation clearance. The hosts with the crowd behind them were putting a lot of pressure on the ONGC team early on.

Five minutes later it was ONGC’s turn to test the RCF rearguard as keeper Narender Singh did brilliantly to punch clear a cross from the left flank but got injured in the process. Much to the hosts’ relief, he was fine to continue. ONGC again created an opening in the 22nd minute when striker Enock Annan is found by a long ball from defence but he his shot went wide of the goal.

ONGC again came close when a series of deflections from a free kick resulted in a corner for ONGC. The ball could have gone anywhere and RCF were lucky not to concede. ONGC had brushed off a slow start and were now very much in control and put pressure on the RCF goal.

ONGC were peppering Narender Singh’s goal who so far had the answers. RCF forward Kevin Patrick battled well to earn a free kick for RCF in the 36th minute. From the resultant free kick, Anurag Singh Sidhu hit the crossbar as Ubaid C.K did enough to prevent RCF from taking the lead very much against the run of play. That boosted RCF slightly as they won series of corners in the minutes after the initial free kick, but failed to make them count.
But just as RCF were getting a foothold back in the game, ONGC made the breakthrough as Lavino Fernandes headed home an Enock Annan cross from close range to give ONGC a deserved lead in the 38th minute.

ONGC were threatening to run home the advantage as the RCF goal was under a siege by ONGC as the referee came to their rescue by blowing for half time. ONGC were firmly in control and RCF had a lot of thinking to do before they took field for the second half.

Three minutes into the second period Lavino Fernandes almost got his and his side’s second when he shot over after being played in by Nitesh Monde. Nitesh was involved again ten minutes later when he combined with Enock Annan to deliver a cross for the ONGC No.10 but was taken off his head by the RCF defender.

Three minutes later Enock Annan’s header is nicely saved at point blank range by Narender Singh as his defence help out to clear the pieces. RCF brought on Mainilung Boy in the 65th minute in search for an equalizer.

But it was ONGC who looked more likely to score as they put lot of pressure on the RCF defence who were getting impatient and making mistakes helping ONGC to threaten their goal.

Narender Singh had been kept busy all afternoon and he was forced into saves by Nitesh Monde and A.Puia. Despite all the possession and pressure, ONGC were unable to kill the game off as they still led through Lavino Fernandes’ first half goal. With the game into its dying minutes ONGC decided to sit back and protect what they had and it was RCF who had more of the ball.

RCF wasted a good chance in the 89th minute when a cross from the left flank just evaded two runners who would have had a tap in. Three minutes later Askar V.S almost made it 2-0 after a great burst from midfield.

ONGC held on for the victory as they entered the final of the Nadkarni Cup at the expense of hosts RCF who did their fans proud after a great showing at the tournament. The crowd acknowledged ONGC’s efforts as they were deserved winners in the end.

ONGC will play winners of Mumbai Customs and Air India in the Final of the 108th Nadkarni Cup on 4th December 2014.

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