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Mahindra look to win agaisnt Al Nijmej to forget Fed Cup final los

New Delhi, Sep 17 (UNI) Mahindra United will not be affected by last Saturday's Federation Cup final loss and will look for a victory against more fancied Lebanese side Al Nijmeh in the home leg of the AFC quarter-final match of the AFC Cup here tomorrow.

''That (the loss to East Bengal) will not affect the morale of the players and we will go for a win tomorrow. You miss a scoring chance and lose a match, that happens in football.

So, we have left the disappointment behind,'' Mahindra manager R Natarajan told reporters at a press conference today.

Mahindra will also be without the service of five players who turned out for Mohun Bagan in the group stage of the AFC Cup but have signed for the team after the season's inter- club transfer.

Manas Das, Gautam Debnath, Surojit Bose, D Ravannan and Izumi Arata will not take field tomorrow.

But Natarajan was delighted that star player NP Pradeep, who played a crucial role in India's recent triumph in the Nehru Cup, would start tomorrow after skipping the Federation Cup in Ludhiana.

''The boys had a good rest after the Federation Cup final.

Moreover, we will be strengthened by the return of Pradeep who was in good form in the Nehru Cup,'' Natarajan added.

The manager, however, acknowledged that his boys will have their task cut out tomorrow to get the better of their more fancied rivals.

''They are a good side and have good record in the tournament.

But, we are also having the best performance in three years' participation in the Cup,'' he said.

Al Nijmeh were the runners-up in 2004 and were semi-finalists last year, while Mahindra failed to advance beyond the group stage in 2004 and 2006.

Nijmeh coach Nenad Stavric was also cautious of his team's chances and played it safe though they have fine record in the tournament.

''Indian football has been on a rising curve and they (Mahindra) have five players who played for the national squad. So, we cannot take them lightly. I think we will have a tough game tomorrow,'' said the Serbian, who took over as coach of the team only last month.

Stavric, who was earlier coach of Syrian side Al Wahda in 2004 when Mahindra lost 0-5 in Damascus after drawing 0-0 at home, singled out Ajayan Nair, Manjit Singh and Steven Dias for praise in the Federation Cup final which he watched on television.

The Lebanese have also one more reason to win the match -- to dedicate it to their two teammates who died in a bomb blast in June.

Defender Hussein Dokmak and midfielder Hussein Naiim died in a bomb blast in Beirut on June 13 when they were returning from a practice match.

Dokmak played in Nijmeh's last group match in Muscat, while Niiam was on the bench that day.

''Dokmak played for national side and Naiim for the Olympic squad and we lost them in a bomb blast.

The players still pray for them every time we take field. We have to win tomorrow to dedicate it to our two players,'' Stavric said.


Story first published: Monday, September 17, 2007, 18:45 [IST]
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