Mumbai Tigers carved out a routine 2-0 win over Hindustan FC to take a huge step towards advancing to the final phase of the I-League Second Division competition here on Monday.
Mohammed Rafi M and Paresh Shivalkar struck in a five-minute second-half spell as the Tigers regained pole position with a game to play at the Bangalore Football Stadium.
With 16 points from six games, the Tigers just need a point from their final game against Kolkata side Southern Samity (14 from six games) on Wednesday -- the final day of Group C competition here. Vasco SC, who are on 13 points, take on Luangmual Football Club on Tuesday and the Goans need a victory to stay alive in the competition. Their fate will then depend upon the result of the clash between Samity and Tigers.
Despite starting favourites, the Tigers looked completely out of sorts in the opening half against Hindustan, who just didn’t allow them to settle down.
Finding it extremely difficult to penetrate the Hindustan midfield, the Tigers just kept littering the pitch with loose passes, occasionally resorting to long-rangers that hardly threatened the goal.
However, post the break, the Tigers seemed to have found their range as they attacked with a lot more intent and purpose, hardly allowing Hindustan a foothold in the contest. They passed better and kept threatening the Hindustan citadel before breaking free in the 58th minute.
Playmaker Bikash Jairu dribbled down the left flank and relayed a well-weighted cross into the box which an unmarked Rafi side-footed in composed fashion for the opening goal.
The goal appeared to have sparked a new life into the Tigers as they upped the ante and doubled the lead five minutes later in a scrappy fashion.
Rafi smacked a loose ball from a goal-mouth melee goalwards and an alert Paresh Shivalkar, who was just off the line, deflected it home as the Tigers took a firm step towards victory.
With an eye on Wednesday’s game against Samity, the Tigers then eased their foot off the pedal, playing well within themselves.
Hindustan, who are out of the competition, too showing no inclination towards making a match out of it, the Tigers just played for time before wrapping up victory in comfortable fashion.
Tuesday’s matches: Kalighta Milan Sangha vs South United FC (1.30 pm); Luangmual FC vs Vasco SC (4.00 pm).