Mahindra go down 1-2 to Al Nejmeh in AFC Cup QF

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New Delhi, Sep 18 (UNI) Mahindra United squandered a one-goal lead and gave in to twin strike by Lebanese international stiker Mohammad Ghaddar to go down 1-2 against Al Nejmeh in their AFC Cup quarter-final home leg here tonight.

Mohammed Rafi put Mahindra ahead in the 47th minute but Ghaddar cancelled it out in the 55th minute before scoring the matchwinner in the 85th minute at Ambedkar Stadium.

The scoreline reflected the proceedings with the Mumbai side having the slight edge in the first session over their fancied rivals while Al Nejmeh dominating the second session.

The defeat left Mahindra, who lost the NFL crown last season and finished second best in Federation Cup in Ludhiana last week, a difficult task in their quest to reach the last four stage of the AFC Cup as they have to travel to Beirut on September 25 for the away leg.

The Lebanese side, which had featured in the semi-finals in the last three editions of the Cup, finishing runners-up in 2005, started slowly in the match played under floodlights and it was the Mumbai side which began on a rousing note with India international NP Pradeep almost scoring in the 18th minute only to see his lunging header, connecting captain Steven Dias' corner, sail a few inches above the bar.

Two minutes before the breather, Ghanaian import Andrews Pomeyie Mensah cut through Nejmeh defence and his low left footer beat the rival goalkeeper Adbo Tafeh but missed the far post by a whisker.

Immediately after barren first half, Rafi tapped in a rebound from the goalkeeper after Dias corner from the right was headed towards goal by Mensah to give the jeepmen one up and chance of a home win.

Nejmeh, which have three players from the Lebanese national squad, struck back within no time and restored parity eight minutes later with Ante Milas sending a wonderful aerial pass for Ghaddar to blast past onrushing Mahindra goalkeeper Subhasish Roy Chowdhury.

Ghaddar confirmed Nejmeh's domination in the second session with a ferocious header five minutes before final whistle, connecting a Khaled Hamieh high cross from the right top of box which went past hapless Mahindra goalkeeper into the net to the dismay of over a thousand supporters.

National coach Bob Houghton watched the match as India are to play Lebanon in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers first round away leg in Beirut on October 8.

Nejmeh have three national players in Ghaddar and defenders Khaled Hamieh and Bilal El Najjarine.

UNI

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