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Mahindra waste penalty, held by Air India
Mario Rodrigues | April 28, 2007 19:11 IST
Last Updated: April 28, 2007 19:31 IST
Andrews Mensah Pomeyie fluffed a penalty about five minutes before the final whistle and Mahindra United were held to a goalless draw by bogey team Air-India in a 15th round National Football League match at the Cooperage, in Mumbai, on Saturday.
Mahindra had won the first leg encounter by a solitary goal.
The tie was a disastrous result for the defending champions, as they now trail leaders Dempo Sports Club by five points (32-27). The Goan club, however, have only two more games in hand while Mahindras have three [See League table].
The latter have only themselves to blame for today's disaster as they dished out a lackluster performance, in tune with their declining form over the last few games.
Air-India took their points tally up to 19 and climbed to seventh spot.
The contentious penalty was awarded by Madhya Pradesh referee P K Bose after defender Suley Musah pulled down Pomeyie with a slight tug while the Ghanaian
Be that as it may, he was not booked while Air-India goalkeeper Raju Ekka, who saved the tepid spot kick by diving low to his left, should have been red-carded after he rained blows on Mahindras' Surkumar Singh.
Ekka escaped with a yellow, which was also shown to the Manipuri defender.
Manjit Singh and Mohammed Rafi, who functioned as withdrawn strikers along the flanks, could not pull in their weight. The midfield too did not rise to the challenge and the induction of lanky striker Abhishek Yadav and medios James Singh and Rauf Khan in the second session also proved to be of no avail.
Air-India on the other hand played a cat-and-mouse game and may be secretly pleased with playing spoilers of Mahindras' title chances, if it comes to that. They could have however got on the scoreboard but Mahindra custodian S R Choudhury, playing in place of an injured first choice Sandip Nandy, came up with fine saves in succession to prevent Bashiru Abbas (header from a corner kick) and Samson Singh (snap angular shot) from finding the target soon after the change of ends.
"We are still hopeful (of retaining the title). This is football and anything can happen," said Mahindra coach Derrick Pereira expectantly after the match.