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Mohd Sporting rally to hold Air India
Mario Rodrigues | April 24, 2007 20:00 IST
Air-India and Mohammedan Sporting played a rousing 2-2 draw in a 16th round National Football League clash at the Cooperage in Mumbai on Tuesday, just as they had done in the first leg encounter which ended 3-3.
The result was, however, disastrous for the black & white outfit from Kolkata, who had to win to survive. They will now be relegated. They remain in ninth position with 12 points and even two wins in their last two matches will not put them past Air-India and Sporting Clube de Goa, who both have 18 points and a superior goal difference [See League table].
Air India now move to seventh place at the cost of the Goan club, but still have four games in hand. The other club facing relegation is Hindustan Aeronautics, who are in the cellar with 10 points from 15 games.
Mohammedan Sporting twice came back from arrears after diminutive striker Samson Singh had put the hosts ahead twice with superb strikes in the 20th minute and second minute of added on time in the first session.
He now has a tally of eight goals in the tournament.
Congolese stopper back Eric Bolwe Mputu, who moved into attacking mode to bail out his team from distress, helped the visitors to draw level in the 37th and 80th minutes.
The introduction of medio Jatin Singh Bisht late into the second session at the expense of forward Mohammed Nizam turned the tide in favour of the belauguered club who were unlucky not to take full points from this encounter.
Samson's first goal was a beauty; he trapped a cross from right wing-back Noel Fernandes and beat rival custodian Gopal Das with a spectacular 25-yard volley.
His second finish was also impressive, as he dispatched a square pass at the top of the box from his off-colour skipper, Paresh Shivalkar, out of the reach of the custodian.
In between, Mputu sallied up ahead on a counter from the right and blasted a free ball in the net from a cross by Mir Farooq Hyder. The Air-India goal had two miraculous escapes before Mputu leveled the score again, with defender A K Martins and goalkeeper Raju Ekka making goal line saves to deny substitute Raman Vijayan and Suleman Firoz.
Air-India could have however walked away with full points had not Narendra Meetei shot straight to Das from close range late in the day after a nice lay up by substitute Benoy Kuruvilla.
Mohammedan Sporting coach Biswajeet Bhattacharjee, who took on the reins midway from Subhash Bhowmick, moaned the fact that his foreign striker (Prestion Corporal) is a dead loss. Poor team selection also let them down as the bench strength was not up to the task.
"We had to win today to keep our chances alive but we could not do so," he rued.