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Race is on for the two slots

Haridev Pushparaj, Bangalore, Mar 29, 2013, DHNS:

Six clubs to fight it out as final phase first-leg kicks off today

Eyeing a return: Mohammedan Sporting players train at the Bangalore Football stadium on Friday. DH photo

The race to gain promotion for the 2013-2014 I-League season hots up as the top six clubs from Second Division get ready to slug it out in the final round (first leg) beginning at the Bangalore Football Stadium on Saturday.

Three clubs from Kolkata, two from Shillong and a Mumbai outfit will feature in the final round to be played over two legs, with the top two gaining promotion to the top division. Foreign players have called the shots in the first-leg groups spread over three venues and that factor will have an impact on how the league shapes up.

Rangdajied United will open the final phase with a clash against Southern Samity, with the Shillong side looking upto Nigeria’s Babatunde and Korean Shin Hujon to up the ante in crunch situations.

Samity came through some tense moments to clinch their berth in the final rounds, with Francis Onyeama striking the winner in their last match. With skipper Marcos Pereira providing support, Onyeama will be hoping to making his presence count here.

“All the boys are very young and energetic, we have remained unbeaten in the first round. We will give it our best shot, let’s see what happens,’’ Subrata Bhattacharya, Samity coach, said.

The Mumbai Tigers, who were second behind Samity in Bangalore, clash with Shillong’s Langsning FC in the second match on the opening day.

The Tigers, although not heavily reliant on imports, will be hoping for Senegalese Demba Dikhate to fetch some goals but they will be without the services of midfielder Henry Gangte who is out with a fractured fibula.

In the first leg, Langsning FC topped Group A in Singrauli finishing with 20 points from eight matches that included six wins and two draws.

Mohammedan Sporting, once a dominant force in Indian football, is another team to watch out for. The Kolkata team, who emerged on top in Group B in Indore, are on a mission to make their way back to first division from where they were relegated three seasons back.

The Sanjoy-Sen coached team collected 20 points from eight matches in Round I with six wins.  Moroccan striker Yunus Baltham, Korean forward Ni Hayjum and midfielder Alfred Jaryan will be the men to watch out for but they will miss the services of key forward Ashim Biswas who is out with a knee injury.

Bhawanipore FC, Group B runners up, is the other team in the final round.

Saturday’s matches: Rangdajied United Football Club vs Southern Samity (1.45 pm);  Langsning Football Club vs Mumbai Tigers (4.15 pm).


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