If seedings were to be applied on Group B before the start of Fed Cup 2011, teams would line up in the following order – Salgaocar, Pailan Arrows, Mumbai FC  followed by HAL. And that’s exactly how things shaped out in the end too. Sukhwinder Singh’s Pailan Arrows did put up a brave fight to challenge Karim Bencherifa’s Salgaocar, but the i-league champions delivered when required the most.

Karim raises one hand towards Fed Cup 2011

First Round :
Arrows on target ; Salgaocar stumble

SAL 0 – 0 MFC | PAR 1 – 0 HAL

Pailan Arrows finally managed to score in the last minute to kick start their Fed Cup 2011 campaign whereas their group rivals Salgaocar could not do the same in the first match of the day in Pune. Noteably , only one goal was scored in 180 minutes played in Group B in the opening round.

Salgaocar captain Lucianao Sabrosa made sure his side held fort against a defensive Mumbai FC side who did pose a challenge to cause an upset. But with a rusty forward line, the Mumbai based side could not create enough chances and had to rely on set pieces for an on target attempt. With a set strategy of a 5 man defense, Khalid Jamil’s goal keeper Ishan Debnath was forced into action on several occasions but a cleat sheet ensured his side of a mini upset in the opening round.

The Pailan Arrows demonstrated a new brand of football under Coach Sukwinder Singh. The long ball approach of Indian Arrows was converted into a confident short passing approach which persisted throughout the 90 minutes and was eventually rewarded by a goal late into the injury time. Malswamfela was brought down inside the box and captain Jibon Singh converted the penalty to give the young Indian team a winning start in their quest for Fed Cup glory.

The Arrows warm up before a crucial Fed Cup Game in Pune

Second Round : Salgaocar stamp authority ; Arrows top group

HAL 0 – 4 SAL  | MFC 1 – 2 PAR

After a disappointing first round, I-League defending Champions, Salgaocar SC were all set to prove their worth and also erase the ghost of last year’s 6-1 thrashing by Mohun Bagan in the Fed Cup League Stage. Being the clash of the Greens, Salgaocar played in their smart away colors,  recorded a thumping 4 – 0 victory over Bengaluru minnows HAL.  Japanese striker Ryuji Sueoka struck in the 23rd minute. Just two minutes later, midfielder Francis Fernandes scored another and then a barrage of attacks by the Goan team led to third goal by Edeh Chidi. With just 29′ on the clock and three goals scored , HAL went into a defensive mode for the rest of the first half and managed to keep the scoreline as is.

Second half and Salgaocar captain Luciano Sabrosa found space for himself on a corner kick and headed home the fourth on the 50th minute mark. With Mehrajuddin Wadoo being replaced, Karim Bencherifa then took foot of the paddle and made a couple of substitutes to try out his bench. HAL coach Thyagraj, meanwhile switched the formation to 3-4-3 . Foreign striker Jagaba Hamza managed to hit the bar and the ball bounced off the line much to agony of the HAL camp. The match ended four goals to nil. With four different goal scorers, it was a nice outing for Karim’s men who would now face the Arrows in the final round.

Surprisingly Pailan Arrows topped Group B with just one round remaining. The Arrows defeated Mumbai FC by two goals to one. Sukhwinder Singh’s boys dominated possession from the word go and persistent sleek passes between the midfield provided an opening for Jibon Singh who fired in from the left wing to open the scoring in the first ten minutes. Mumbai FC somehow managed to hold on till the first half.

The Arrows regrouped and started the second half similar to the first. Former Viva Kerala striker CS Sabeeth struck in the 53rd minute to give a two goal lead to the Arrows. Mumbai FC then came back strongly in the second half and substitute Lalawmpula hit the net with fifteen minutes remaining. The ending period of the match saw some good moves from both sides with Mumbai looking desperate at times to score the equalizer and stay in the Fed Cup , but that wasn’t to be. The game ended two goals to one in favor of Arrows.

Action during the HAL v Salgaocar SC game

Final Round : Salgaocar qualify ; Mumbai earn a comeback victory

HAL 1 – 2 MFC | PAR 0  – 3  SAL

The stage was set with the last match of Group B being the decider. Pailan Arrows, leading the group having collected six points, needed a draw against Salgaocar who found themselves two points behind and in a must win situation. It would be interesting to see if the Champions could rise to the occasion and they did so in an emphatic 3 – 0 win, shrugging off any threat from the Arrows. Sukhwinder SIngh’s side did dominate during the middle period of the first half with some fantastic ground possession and sleek 1-2 passing between Tomba Singh and Bijendra Rai but Edeh Chidi’s goal within the first five minutes meant Salgaocar had the upper hand going into the break.

Ishan Debnath did some spectacular goal keeping in the second half as the Arrows team looked tired and Ryuji Sueoka displayed some brilliant ball control leading to a goal mouth scramble which was finally drilled in by Gilbert Olivera. Midfielder Ajay Singh did manage to control the game for the Arrows but second half substitute Balwant Singh headed in a cool finish in injury time to seal a semi-final birth for the Goan team.

In the first encounter of the day which was incidentally shifted to a 4 pm start due to TV coverage, the Mumbai boys got the better of their Bangalore counterparts. With nothing to play for, Khalid Jamil rested captain Abhishek Yadav and Noel Wilson to try out his bench. The match picked up pace in the second half after HAL’s captain James Singh converted a penalty kick just at the half way mark and Mumbai came back charging in the second part as Ebe Sukore scored from a long throw with 15 minutes remaining. HAL’s Kathigeyan shot a superb volley, from just outside the D area which eventually hit the post, earned a much deserved applause from the sparse crowd. Ebe Sukore then went on to score a superb bi-cycle kick goal past Sanjiban Ghosh in the 91st minute to earn a famous comeback victory for the Mumbai based outfit.