ONGC overcomes UBI to lit up the championship battle!
13th April’18, Mumbai : While MDFA Elite division approaches its culmination ONGC locked horns with UBI in an all-important clash here in the evening at Cooperage Ground, in Mumbai. It was a must win clash for ONGC as a loss or a draw with the third placed UBI team could’ve well seen Air India crowned as champion even before the ball starts to roll in their last match.
After an evenly contested first half where UBI managed to keep their much fancied opponents at bay, ONGC came back hard at them in the second half and won the match courtesy strikes from Harkirat Singh and Enock and thus the kept the Elite division in course for a thrilling finish when they take on Air India in the last match of the division for the championship.
The match started with the high flying UBI looking determined to end their campaign on a high as they pressed hard in ONGC half. ONGC’s prolific striker Enock was heavily marked and Dion Menezes led the UBI defence handsomely to keep him from causing any kind of trouble in the opening minutes of the match. Bryce Miranda was seen coming deep into the defence in case of an ONGC attack as UBI rued the absence of Scott D’Souza who missed the match owing to two consecutive yellow cards
The first real chance of the day fell to UBI in the 13th minute when their goalie came out of the box to clear a long ball aimed at Enock and initiated a counter-attack. Vinod Pandey won the possession of the ball and sent an aerial cross towards the right flank, to which Sherwyn Chang hold on and went past the ONGC full back with a tricky touch towards left and squared it off for Ranjit Pandre. Ranjit however had a forgettable first touch and missed the left post by whisker as the ONGC goalie rushed in to narrow the angle.
While UBI created a lot of chances they were unable to barge into their opposition box courtesy ONGC’s gritty defense led by Ben. Lalmuanpuia their skipper took a lot of workload, distributing the ball and assisting the defense in case of an UBI attack. ONGC concentrated on long balls from defence or midfield to the flanks and their star striker Enock and seemed to attack with caution.
UBI in the first half got a handful of corners but couldn’t make those count as there seemed to a lack of penetration at the near post while the corner kicks most of the time didn’t reach the far post where there were always a sea of UBI players amongst the ONGC defenders. UBI’s Valentine Pereira was seen to hold the ball too much which sometimes turned adverse for his team.
Towards the end of the first half both the teams got pretty dangerous chances. While Enock missed the target even after breaking free from Lalmuanpuia’s free kick; Valentine Pereira hit the woodwork after a free kick from Dion Menezes rebounded back from the ONGC defence as both the sides went into the break goalless; ruing the chances they got.
Second half started with Valentine troubling the ONGC goalie with a low shot to which the custodian had to dive towards his left, to avert the danger. But at the stroke of 58th minute ONGC finally broke the deadlock through Harkirat Singh who was brought in place of Prosenjit Halder in the attacking third. It was a perfect counter attack from ONGC as Harkirat took a long run with the ball through the right flank and chipped unceremoniously from 25 yards that bamboozled the UBI keeper and settled into the top corner of the far post.
The goal shook the UBI team who fought valiantly till then. They increased the pressure in the midfield and pressed hard in their opponent’s box for a good 10/15 minutes in which Ranjit got a glorious chance, after a brilliant aerial through by Valentine; but was at the fault of not taking the shot in the initial touches as the danger was swiftly averted by ONGC defence. Dion Menezes who excelled through-out the game from the UBI backline came up in the midfield to implement a shift of gear in their gameplay but still couldn’t find the equaliser.
ONGC coach sensing the change brought on Naresh in place of Himanshu Patil and the substitute again paid dividends. It was in the 82nd minute when ONGC won a corner which was well taken by the substitute Naresh and Enock stormed through the near post to meet a header, which was enough for the ball to settle into the far post to keep their chances of championship alive.
In the remaining few minutes UBI piled up pressure but couldn’t find a single loophole within the stout ONGC defense as they rounded up their campaign on a disappointing note, suffering their 2nd victory in what has been an absolutely outstanding season for them as they managed to break the 2-way traffic of Air India and ONGC in the championship battle. Dion Menezes was phenomenal through-out the season as was Scott D’ Souza, Valentine Pereira, Bryce Miranda and Ranjit Pandre.
ONGC now have 28 points from 10 games dropping points only once. They will meet Air India who hasn’t dropped a single point in the season to set up a virtual final, as a win for ONGC will see them snatching the championship from the claws of Air India, while the latter could well be sufficed with a draw for the championship.