ntrigue in the I-League football championship continued even as the last round matches were being played and the title already decided last week as the bottom-placed Mohammedan Sporting extended their stay in the top tier, probably by a day, when the Kolkata team defeated host Mumbai FC 2-1 in the Round 26 match at the Balewadi Stadium here on Sunday.
Mohammedan, who began with 21 points needed to earn full three points to make life tough for 2013 champions Churchill Brothers (22), who play Salgaocar SC on Monday.
Now with the Kolkata club moving to 24 points thanks to goals from Taro Hasegawa and Penn Orji, it has become imperative for Churchill to win against Salgaocar and avoid becoming the first defending champions to get relegated.
As for Mumbai FC, Khalid Jamil’s boys frittered away a golden chance to finish above their Derby rivals Pune FC. Inexplicably, Jamil fielded a weak side with Yusif Yakubu missing from the line-up and also from the bench.
The loss meant Mumbai FC stays at 28 points and in eighth position and only United Sports Club (26), who meet East Bengal on Monday, having a chance to get better of them.
Nonetheless, it was Mumbai FC who took the lead through Ebi Sukore’s header in the 20th minute, but Mohammedan shot back immediately through Taro Hasegawa before Penn Orji scored five minutes from close to give the Kolkata team a reason to end the campaign on a high.
No doubt after the Japanese striker Hasegawa scored in the 25th minute, Mohammedan played with purpose, while Mumbai was always on the backfoot.
The goal came about when Syed Rahim Nabi set up Hasegawa on the right. Hasegawa fired in a left-footer that hit the crosspiece, but dipped in at the near post.
Mohammedan had several chances after resumption but poor finishing and a complacent forward line led by Brazilian striker Josimar saw all of them being wasted.
The winning goal came in the 85thminute when Orji’s left-footed shot deflected off Anwar before settling in the back of the net.