Mohun Bagan's chances of making it to the semi-finals hit a roadblock when they were held to a 1-1 draw by gritty Pune FC in their second group league encounter of the Federation Cup football tournament, in Vasco, Goa on Tuesday.
Pune FC have collected four points from two matches while Bagan have logged only two points from as many games. They now have an uphill task of winning both their remaining group league games in order to have any chance of making it to the last-four stage.
The green and maroon brigade, who had better share of scoring opportunities, took the lead through Pierre Boya in the 26th minute and Ryuji Sueoka restored parity for Pune FC from the spot in the 66th minute.
Bagan, who created a bagful of chances, had themselves to blame for not collecting full points due to the profligacy of their strikers.
Pune FC coach Karim Bencherifa started with Sueoka and Eric Brown in attack while Matthew Gonsalves and Luciano Sabrosa filled in at the heart of defence.
His counterpart Sanjoy Sen had Boya partnering Chennayin FC's Balwant Singh in attack while Lalkamal Bhowmick was expected to sit deep as the defensive playmaker in the team.
Bagan, who drew their first match against Bengaluru FC, were looking for full points and started on attacking note as Sony Norde delivered a perfect cross in the box which was headed by Balwant to Boya, who could only volley it straight to Amrinder Singh in goal, within five minutes of the start.
In the 11th minute, Katsumi Yusa found Balwant with a perfect cross that he controlled well but failed to find the target, sending it narrowly wide of the far post.
Bagan who probed into the rivals had another chance to surge ahead in the 20th minute but Balwant header went over.
Five minutes later, it was Sony Norde again who orchestrated the attack from the left and had his shot blocked by Laramluaha Hmar before Pierre Boya skied his effort from close range.
Mariners after coming close to scoring on few occasions took the lead in the next minute itself through Boya's bullet header.
In the 33rd minute, Norde again put in a delightful cross from the left that Balwant chested down towards his strike partner, but Boya could only volley it straight to a grateful Amrinder.
Pune FC started the second half much better and Eric's shot was just off target after substitute Thongkhosiem Haokip had flicked on a long ball for Sueoka who found the Liberian on the right.
In the 57th minute, Shilton Paul punched Eric Brown's corner straight to Matthew Gonsalves on the edge of the box who could only volley it over goal.
However Bencharifa's men finally had the equaliser in the 66nd minute after Shouvik Ghosh gave away a penalty after handling Eric's cross from the right.
Ryuji Sueoka made no mistake as he smashed in the spot-kick, giving Shilton no chance.
Later in the day, in another match in Margao, Tolgay Ozbey scored the first hat-trick of the tournament as Dempo FC scored a convincing 4-1 win over Sporting Clube de Goa in their Group A league match at Nehru Stadium.
Dempo, who led 2-0 at half-time, scored through Tolgay Ozbey(11th, 37th, 51st) and Romeo Fernandes(83rd). Sporting Clube de Goa, who gave good account of themselves in the second-half, reduced the margin in the 77th minute through substitute Beevan D'Mello.
Thus Dempo, who won both their matches, have consolidated their position for a place in the semi-finals. While Sporting Clube de Goa, who lost both their matches, are yet to open their account
Image: Pune FC striker Eric Brown (#10) and Mohun Bagan’s Bello Rasaq (#36) vie for possession during their Federation Cup match on Thursday
Photograph: Pune FC