Prodigal Mahindra United spurned another great chance to swell their points kitty when they were held to a goalless draw by promoted Viva Kerala in a fourth-round I-League match on home turf at the Cooperage in Mumbai on Saturday.
The Malayali outfit, which tied 1-1 with Air-India at the same venue five days ago, move to a respectable five points (one win, two draws and a loss) while the former champions, still looking for their first win, are on three points from three draws and a huge defeat against Churchill Brothers in Mumbai in their second game.
The 'Red Devils' were by far the more dominant side today and had their fair share of chances. But they were again found wanting upfront. With Yakubu Yusif nursing an injury, coach Derrick Pereira finally bit the bullet and signed up old striker Andrews Mensah Pomeyie and defender Bello Rasaq. But while the ex-Salgaocar veteran managed to keep things fairly tight at the back the forward line lacked bite and ultimately the blank scoreboard did tell the correct tale.
Pomeyie was his usual prodigal self as last season. He spurned a great chance after medio Douhou Pierre hoodwinked three defenders in the box and pulled the ball back to the Ghanaian who chested it down nicely but booted it over the bar.
Luck was not on Mahindras' side. When they did get the ball in the net once, it was disallowed for offside.
Then a Sukhvinder Singh long ranger in the first half thudded into the crossbar and a close range shot by substitute Surojit Bose, after a fine one touch play in the 73rd minute, hit the upright with only M V Nelson to beat.
The Viva Kerala goalkeeper, voted man of the match, had another fine outing and kept the southerners afloat with a few good saves.
Pereira as usual rang in his changes, bringing in strikers Tarif Ahmed, Sushil Kumar Singh and schemer Bose for the largely ineffective Mohammed Rafi, while withdrawing Pomeyie into the midfield role. But the Mahindra midfield and forwards still lacked the sharpness to create enough gilt edged chances -- and also take them when they materialized.
Viva Kerala coach A M Sreedharan, who has had a fine away run, came looking for a point and was happy to get it. But his inexperienced side did have their moments in the setting sun too. African strikers Wisdom Abbey and Awudu Adama created a bit of flutter on the wet and slippery turf.
Mahindra goalkeeper Sandip Nandy was called to save a swift shot from Adama early in the second half, the Ghanaian from the famous Hearts of Oaks club putting the rebound over.
Abbey could have sealed the match in added on time when a Mahindra defensive blunder let him through but he shot hastily over from the top of the box.
Mahindra United now take on Sporting Clube de Goa away on December 14 while Viva Kerala play their first match at home (in Kozhikode) versus Salgaocar a day later