Mumbai : Fancied Air India faced quite a stiff challenge but managed to quash the aspirations of PIFA Colaba by coasting to a close 3-2 victory in a tense and thrilling final of the 110thRCF-Nadkarni Cup football tournament, organized by RCF Sports Club under the aegis of MDFA and played  at the RCF Colony ground, Chembur on Monday evening.

Pramod Pandey (19th minute), Pratik Koli (25th minute) and Aaron D’Costa (45+2nd) scored the goals for champs Air India, while Elvis Ozawara, who was named ‘Player of the tournament’, struck both the goals for PIFA, the first in the 41st minute and the second from the penalty spot in the 89th minute.

The Air India outfit, who had finished runners-up losing to Mumbai FC last year, dominated the first half to take control of the match. After some early misses, Air India finally found success when Pramod Pandey headed home from Prakash Thorat’s corner kick in the 19th minute. Six minutes later they doubled the lead when from a swift counter-attack Vijith Shetty charged down the middle before switching the ball across to the right for D’Costa who in turn lobbed over PIFA goalkeeper Pritam Jadhav for Pratik Koli, who was left with the simple task of heading into an empty net.

PIFA seemed unfazed by those setbacks and fought on gamely. Their hard-working Nigerian striker Ozawara capitalized on a misunderstanding between Air India keeper Debasish Das and the defenders as he pounced on a loose ball and coolly slotted home.

However, PIFA conceded a silly goal in additional period of the first half and gave Air India a two goals cushion. Following a poor defensive clearance Thorat intercepted the ball at the edge of penalty area on the right side and pushed it into the path of D’Costa who from an acute angle fired an angular grounder past a helpless goalkeeper Jadhav who had no chance to make a save.

In the second period, PIFA were a transformed side and with the pep talk for coach Nirvan Shah at the break they player more aggressively and put up a stronger fight. Ozawara led the PIFA fightback but he lacked support upfront as they managed to launch a number of attacks on the Air India citadel but without much success.

Air India stopper Anuraj Sidhu who was under tremendous pressure fouled Ozawara inside the area and referee Louis Fernandes had no hesitation in awarding a penalty in the 89th minute. Ozawara stepped forward and comfortably beat goalkeeper Das to the right-hand corner.

In the next minute Sidhu was again guilty of another foul on Ozawara and he was shown a second yellow card and subsequently sent off. Surprisingly Ozawara who had fallen by the tackle was told to leave the field for to receive medical attention and not allowed to take the free-kick and with that PIFA hopes of getting an crucial equalizer ended.

PIFA Colaba were presented with the runners-up trophy and a cash prize of Rs 60,000. PIFA Colaba’s Elvis Ozawara was declared the ‘Player of the Tournament’ and he received a cash prize of Rs 10,000.

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