Mumbai come close to snatching a win at Mohun Bagan but are left with just a point as Balwant Singh equalizes late for the hosts.
Producing a gutsy performance Mumbai came within striking distance of defeating fancied Mohun Bagan and that too, in their own backyard. After grabbing a 2-1 lead midway through the first half, the gallant Mumbai side, managed to hold on to that advantage and were moments away from recording a memorable victory. But, as they were on the home stretch, their resistance broke down and the Mumbaikars conceded a goal at the death which forced them to share the spoils with the Kolkata giants in a 2-2 draw in a 13th round I-League match at the Rabindra Sarovar Stadium, Kolkata, on Wednesday evening.
Santosh Kashyap made four changes to the Mumbai side that lost 0-2 to Aizawl FC. Victorino Fernandes, Lalchawnkima, Pratesh Shirodkar and Baljit Sahni were included in the starting 11.
The home team smarting from their 1-2 defeat against Churchill Brothers in Goa last week, came out all guns blazing and were all over the Mumbai territory. They did not take too long to take the lead when Pritam Kotal volleyed home from close after skipper Katsumi headed back Sony Norde’s flag-kick from the left in the 12th minute.
The Mumbaikars clearly seemed to be a rejuvenated lot and took that setback in their stride as they launched a series of raids on the Bagan goal. After a couple of missed attempts Mumbai found the equalizer in the 20th minute when Reagan Singh’s shot from outside the box saw Thoi Singh neatly deflect home. His looping attempt evaded the outstretched hands of a diving Bagan goalkeeper Debjit.
Hardly had the cheers in the Mumbai camp settle down, the Bagan goal was rocked for the second time in as many minutes. This time Reagan made a darting run down the right flank and sent low ball across the rival goal. Victorino Fernandes sneaked behind defender Edurado and coolly flicked home to once again bring his coach Santosh Kashyap and the others on the bench back on their feet.
However, later Victorino had a chance to stretch the visitors lead to 3-1 at the half hour mark. He picked up Baljit’s pass from the right but could not keep his shot on target. Besides the goal Bagan did not look threatening in the first half.
On resumption, the Kolkata side upped the ante as they searched for a quick equalsier. But, the Mumbai outfit, in an unusual move seemed content on defending in numbers and relying on the counters to stay in front. They defended resolutely and goalkeeper Laxmikant Kattimani wearing the captain’s armband proved to be a hard nut to crack as he showed good anticipation to thwart attempts from the rival attackers.
With little less than 30 minutes remaining, Bagan were awarded an indirect free kick just outside the six yard box when goalkeeper Kattimani collected a backpass from Mehrajuddin Wadoo. But, Norde’s shot was blocked by a defender and the chance went in vain.
Kattimani continued to frustrate the Bagan forwards, in particular Jeje Lalpekhlua, who was also guilty of shooting wide from close.
Bagan were lucky to find the crucial equalizing goal when Norde broke free down the left and with a measured chip across found the head of Balwant who timed his run well to beat Kattimani much to the dismay of the Mumbai outfit.
Mumbai not have 10 points and are placed in the 9th position while Bagan stay in third place with 22 points 7 adrift leaders Aizawl FC with 29 points.
The Mumbai side will now travel to Pune to take on DSK Shivajians in a 14th round I-League clash on Saturday, March 11.
Results : Mohun Bagan 2 (Pritam Kotal 12th, Balwant Singh 89th) drew with Mumbai 2 (Thoi Singh 20th, Victorino Fernandes 22nd).