Mumbai: A disciplined Indian Navy underlined their supremacy with a clinical tennis-score 6-2 victory against a determined Mumbai Customs in the Super Division final of the MHAL League, at the MHAL Stadium, Churchgate here on Tuesday evening. The Navy outfit enjoyed a 3-0 half-time lead.
Leading defending champions Navy’s assault was Jugraj Singh who notched up a fine hat-trick of goals. Nitesh Singh, Pratik Singh and Aakib Rahim chipped in with the other three goals as Navy claimed their third title in four years. Customs scored through Hemant Gethe and Pankaj Singh. The Sailors had previously emerged triumphant in 2016 and 2018.
Indian Navy received the Super Division trophy and a cash award of Rs 1.10 lakh from MHAL President Mangha Singh Bakshi, while MHAL Managing Committee member Mukul Pandey presented Mumbai Customs with the runners-up trophy and a cash prize of Rs 70,000.
The fitter and faster Sailor smoothly set sail and opened the scoring when Jugraj scored from a penalty corner in the ninth minute. Customs seemed unfazed by that setback as they fought on gamely and came close to scoring the equalizer but Alden D’Souza wasted a clear chance a few minutes later.
Navy made a solid start to the second quarter and hit the target twice in quick succession, with both goals coming from field efforts. First, Nitesh easily tapped in a cross from the left in the 17th minute and two minutes later Ajinkya Jadhav cut in from the right and relayed the ball to Jugraj who sounded the boards with a cracking reverse hit giving goalkeeper Yash Gondalia no chance to make a save.
Mumbai Customs showed more energy and creativity on resumption as they launched a series of raids at the Navy citadel and cut the deficit when captain Hemant Gethe scored from an indirect penalty corner drill in the 33rd minute. The excisemen continued to press hard for more goals but were unable to capitalize on the chances.
The Sailors scored two more goals in as many minutes when Pratik Singh easily pierced through the Customs defence before slapping home from close in the 42nd minute and in the next minute Jugraj scored with a firm push from another short corner to give the Naval side a 5-1 lead. Ten minutes later, Aakib Rahim beat goalkeeper Gondalia with an angular drive from the right to complete the winning margin. Customs managed another consolation goal through Pankaj Singh in the 57th minute.