The New Year has effected a change of fortunes for Mahindra United, but it has made no difference for Dempo Sports Club. The former champions went into overdrive to rout the defending champs 3-1 in a delayed (due to the Mumbai terror attacks) 11th round I-League match at the Cooperage in Mumbai on Monday evening.
Mahindra, who led 1-0 at half-time, got their goals through Mohammed Rafi (39th minute), sriker Chidi Edeh (78th) and midfielder Pierre Douhou (83rd minute), who was playing in the 'box'.
The Goan side reduced the margin through their charismatic medio Beto in the 49th minute.
Mahindra United, who have never lost to Dempo since Derrick Pereira took over four years ago, now move up to eighth place with 12 points while the latter stay put in fourth place with 17 points.
Dempo started purposefully and dominated the early exchanges before the home team found their touch and took the fight to the opposition camp. The losers could have taken an early lead had Joaquim Abranches not lobbed the ball out with Mahindra goalkeeper Subhasish Roy Choudhury out of position.
Thereafter it was the 'Red Devils' who started looking the more angelic. Had a few more chances been taken they could rattled up something close to a tennis scoreline.
The opening goal came after Steven Dias, sporting a new maroon coloured Mohawk hairdo, cleverly squared the ball from a set piece to Sukhwinder Singh, whose first time shot forced a save by Dempo keeper Satish Kumar. Edeh, lurking around, laid the ball away to Rafi, who tapped it in.
The Dempo equalizer came off a snap long ranger from Ranty Martins which struck the underside of the crossbar and rebounded back into play only for Brazilian Beto to appear at the right moment and nod the ball home.
Two late goals off counters from the right flank knocked the stuffing out of Dempo, with Douhou feeding Edeh with a perfect through ball which the Nigerian slotted coolly from an angular position.
Edeh then provided the perfect cross and Douhou, who came in running from the left and soared up majestically to head the ball in powerfully past a helpless custodian.
This was the second goal in the tournament for the Nigerian hitman and the first for the Ivory Coast schemer.