Ten-man Minerva Punjab were held to a 1-1 draw by Nepal's Manang Marshyangdi Club in a Group E tie of the AFC Cup in Kathmandu on Wednesday, a result which will severely dent their chances of making it to the next round of the tournament.
Thoiba Singh gave Minerva the lead in the 40th minute but Manang defender Oluwashina Azeez equalised in the 81st minute to deny the former I-League champions a win at the ANFA Complex in Kathmandu.
Minerva, who were denied by the woodwork twice in the first half, were down to 10 men in the second half after losing Prateek Joshi to a red card just before the half-time whistle.
This was Minerva's fourth draw in as many matches and they are still in search of their maiden win in an AFC Cup match.
With four points from as many matches, they need to win both their remaining group matches to stand in with a chance of advancing to the next round.
Manang, on the other hand, are virtually out of reckoning with two points -- from two draws -- from four matches.
Only the top side from the four-team group will make it to the Inter-Zonal Play-off Semifinals.
Manang began the match by starving Minerva of possession but the Indian side looked effective when they got a chance with the ball.
Samuel Lalmuanpuia was particularly impressive in the wings early on. His first attempt was thwarted by a diving tackle from Bishal Rai in the wings but in the eighth minute, he produced an impressive long range effort that came off the bar.
Two minutes later, Thoiba produced a similar effort but ended up with the same result.
In the 28th minute, Samuel dodged past Kamal Shreshtha to create space for himself in the box but ended up depositing the shot into the arms of Manang goalkeeper Bishal Shrestha.
Thoiba, however, made the most of a slip-up by Shreshtha a couple of minutes later as he sent a cross from Hassan past the Manang goalkeeper to give Minerva the lead in the 40th minute.
Seconds before half-time, though, Minerva lost Joshi for a red card offence.
Up against a reduced side in the second half, the Nepalese club created more chances. Arshdeep Singh was kept busy in the early part of the half, especially by Anjan Bista.
The match, however, turned on its head when Manang equalised through Shaheed Azeez in the 81st minute. Azeez calmly headed a long ball home in a crowded box.
Minerva then had a goal denied minutes before the final whistle which ensured their streak of draws in the tournament remained unbroken.
Minerva will next be seen in action against Chennaiyin FC on June 19 in Guwahati while Manang will play Dhaka Abahani.
AFC Cup: Chennaiyin FC suffer first defeat
Dhaka: Chennaiyin FC suffered their first defeat of the AFC Cup, going down 2-3 to Abahani Limited Dhaka in a Group E match, but still remain in the hunt for a next round berth in Dhaka on Wednesday.
C K Vineeth gave Chennaiyin the lead in the seventh minute but Abahani fought back in the second half with two goals in five minutes through Kervens Belfort (64th) and Masih Saighani (69th). Isaac Vanmalsawma drew Chennaiyin level in the 74th minute but Mamunul Islam's 88th minute goal handed the home side all three points.
With Wednesday's result, Abahani drew level with Chennaiyin on top of group on seven points from four games. Chennaiyin were playing their first away match of the tournament.
The two teams played out two contrasting halves, the second of which saw three goals packed in a space of 10 minutes.
Chennaiyin, who had beaten Abahani by a solitary goal in the first leg in Ahmedabad courtesy a late goal, took the lead in the the seventh minute. Vineeth was successful in converting a corner kick into a goal with minimal fuss.
The attacks continued from the Indian club as they tested Sahidul Alam on multiple occasions within the first 30 minutes.
Abahani were able to create a few chances in the first half but were guilty of not capitalising on them. In the 30th minute, Sunday broke into the box from the left but smashed a rebound from a defender over the bar.
Minutes later, Jewel Rana had another chance from a cross but failed to connect from metres away from the bar. Karanjit's neat work with the gloves also denied them a couple of more opportunities near the half-time mark.
The home side pressed hard to equalise throughout the second half and kept the Chennaiyin defence busy. Just when things started to drift Chennaiyin's way, Belfort succeeded in finding the back of the net with the deftest of touches after chesting down a long ball and cleverly dodging past Mailson in the 64th minute.
In the 69th minute, Abahani turned the tables on Chennaiyin when Masih Saighani delivered a perfect left-footed free-kick from the edge of the box to make it two goals in five minutes for the home side.
The visitors came back strongly within five minutes as the newly introduced Thoi Singh dazzled his way past Abahani defenders before creating a chance for Isaac Vanmalsawma who tapped it into an open goal to equalise.
An 88th-minute throw-in, however, allowed Mamunul Islam to deliver the knock-out punch as he found space in a crowded box to slot in a spectacular left-footer to send Abahani into the lead once again.
Chennaiyin tried hard to claw their way back into the game after that but the equaliser eluded them.
Chennaiyin face Minerva Punjab FC in their penultimate group match on June 19 in Guwahati while Abahani play against bottom-placed Manang Marshyangdi of Nepal.