Mumbai Juniors emerge champion in Palghar

Mumbai Juniors emerge champion in Palghar

16th Feb, 2018 : It was the grandest stage of Maharashtra Inter-district Football Championship for Junior boys, organised by WIFA; as the defending Champion Mumbai squared off against Kolhapur in the final.

While Mumbai came into this final clash at the backdrop of their comfortable 2-0 victory over Jalgaon, Kohlapur had the better of their heavyweight opposition Pune, in a thrilling tie-breaker in the semis.

Kolhapur, who has been a revelation this year, turned up the pressure on Mumbai, the favourites, from the word go! They started akin to their pacy nature, providing long balls from deep to both the flanks.

Though Mumbai looked shaky at the start, their defense seemed focussed and composed, as they managed to avert all the dangers brought in by the long crosses of Kolhapur. Kolhapur seemed bent on getting an early lead with persistent pressing in Mumbai  half. Hrishikesh More’s freekick from half line hit the woodwork in the 10th minute, which was Kohlapur’s first shy at the goal. 5 mins later, Rohan More the Mumbai custodian had to inflict a diving save to deny a threatening header by Pranav Ghatage of Kollhapur. Pranav was again the centre of attraction 3 mins later when he hit the Mumbai crossbar as Kolhapur continued piling up the pressure in search of an early lead.

Mumbai got the first real chance, half an hour into the match, when  Aman Gaikwad the no. 7 of Mumbai took a powerful shot which ended up missing the target by a couple of inches.

Second half started with the quest of getting the elusive lead; as Mumbai after a quiet first half looked constructive in the second.

Till then the Kolhapur colts were heavily dependant on aerial crosses to increase the pace of the game. The Mumbai coach Jaywant Pathak made few tactical changes in his boys’ gameplay to unsettle the Kolhapur side.

 The frontline of Mumbai comprising of Brendan, Bhupati, Aman pressed the Kohlapur backline to minimise the space for the crosses to be delivered from Kolhapur defense. Coupling with the attack the trio also dropped back time and again to  support Marven and Rajin in the midfield, which enabled Mumbai to take the control of the game with their characteristic organised ball distribution.

 Soon their best chance till then arrived; as a brilliant floating free kick from the talented Rajin Mehta, forced an equally brilliant save from Mayuresh, the Kolhapur goalie, who was later adjudged the best goalkeeper.

Three more goal-scoring chances fell  Mumbai’s way but the conversion in the final third eluded them, unfortunately.

Just when it seemed, that the fate of the final will be decided in a tie-breaker, Mumbai scored an injury time stunner!

 It was an exquisite long ball from Abel Fernandez, the substitute, which was headed brilliantly into the net by an onrushing Twain Fernandez, who caught the Kolhapur backline by surprise.

Stung by the goal, Kolhapur went on an all-out attack in the last minute of the injury time, but Twain leading his defense line, ensured that there was no more hair-raising moments as Mumbai side errupted wild with the final whistle.

Twain was in fact, the mainstay of both attack and defense for Mumbai in the match as well as throughout the Chmpionship. It was no wonder that he was adjudged the man of the tournament later.

This is Mumbai’s second consecutive inter-district championship on a day, which saw them register a hat-trick of trophies as both sub-junior and women’s section had their names engraved in the champion’s trophy.

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