Goa/Pune/ Kochi/ Kolkata: Dempo Sports Club lost a potentially title deciding 19th round I-League clash after Pune FC stole their thunder 1-0 at the Nehru Stadium, Fatorda, on Sunday.
Dempo started the match with a five point advantage over second placed East Bengal.
A win against Pune FC would have given them a crucial eight point advantage over their nearest rivals and the title would have been theirs to lose.
But, in a match where they seldom rose above the levels of mediocrity, Dempo found the visitors too stubborn to break down.
Izumi Arata scored the only goal of the match for Pune FC in the 19th minute and then the visitors defended resolutely to pick three crucial points.
It not just helped Pune FC improve their standing but also infused life into the I-League title race as the likes of East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Churchill Brothers saw their chances being given the kiss of life.
Dempo surprisingly took time to settle down and it was this hesitancy that Pune FC looked to exploit at the start.
Izumi Arata and Keita Mandjou left the rival defence guessing in the initial stages, and although Keita seemed particularly dangerous, it was Arata who headed the first goal after Baldeep Singh’s cross seemed inch perfect.
Almost immediately, Keita had a golden opportunity to put Pune two goals ahead, but the striker after doing exceptionally well to beat strong challenges from Clifford Miranda and Mahesh Gawli, surprisingly shot wide with only the goalkeeper at his mercy.
Clifford Miranda’s flick that was saved on the goalline by Pune defender Caitano costa was the closest, Dempo came to scoring in the first session.
The second session saw the league leaders create several chances, all of which were wasted by the likes of Ranty Martins, Koko Sakibo.
Coach Mauricio Afonso introduced a new pair of strikers in Joaquim Abranches and Joy Ferrao but the two strikers too missed easy chances
Man of the Match was awarded to Anas Etadhodika (Pune).
Air India beat HAL 2-1
Air India defeated Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Bangalore, 2-1 to consolidate its position in the standings after both the teams put up a great show in the 19th round I-League encounter at the Balewadi Sports Complex on Sunday.
In a fast-paced match, Air India went up 2-0 before the halftime and defended their lead for most part, before Jagaba Hamza goal four minutes from close spoiled their clean slate.
Nonetheless, three points from this round raised their point tally to 27, while HAL is at the bottom on the table with six points.
Soon after the start, both Air India and HAL started gamely with frontline immediately taking chances. In the 26th minute, Manjit set up a move from the left and sent a cross to Bijoy Basfore, who missed a sitter from the box. A free-kick earned in the 37th minute worked for Air India as HAL goalkeeper P Pramod only managed to punch it back into play.
The ball went wide on the right wing where Basfore collected it and sent it back high into the box. Henry leapt to head and connected the ball, which sailed into the net.
Air India’s second goal came out of the blue, when Sandeep Sangha finally managed to find the net on a curling shot, about 40 yards from the post.
Sangha actually had sent the ball for Henry to head and Pramod was eyeing the Air India striker. Instead, the ball angled and dropped into the netting from the top of the post leaving HAL goalkeeper flummoxed.
On resumption, there was no let up from each side as the pace of the match continued with Meiti sending neat defence splitting passes. Once he almost scored, but Air India defender Lamine Tamba made a goal-line save with the ball in the air leaving a room for HAL to express its displeasure.
With just four minutes left for regulation time to end, Meiti moved from the left and sent the ball on the right, where Hamza made a frantic turn as the ball landed behind him and pushed it into the net.
Jagaba Hamza of HAL was adjudged man of the match.
Sporting Clube thrash Chirag Kerala
Sporting Clube de Goa was the latest team to inflict pain on Chirag United Kerala as they ran out deserved 3-0 winners in the 19th round clash between the two, at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium, Kochi, on Sunday.
Dawson Fernandez struck twice in either halves while Sudanese striker James Moga found the other goal for the visitors.
The Goans were clearly the better team on the field, with Chirag's weaknesses clearly evident in their play. They were sloppy in the defense and lacked the edge to break the defensive wall set up by Sporting.
So, there wasn't any surprise when the home side went 1-0 down in the 27th minute of the game. Dawson Fernandez was there to take advantage of a defensive mix-up in the Chirag area and he tucked it in to give his side the opener of the evening.
Sporting doubled their lead in the additional minutes of the first half through James Moga and took the game away from the home side's reach.
In the second half, the home side came up with some opportunities, but Sporting's keeper Ashok Singh was a real wall infront of the goal. He denied Chirag twice in the 52nd minute as he first blocked Sukhwinder Singh's long effort and then again denied David Sunday on the rebound.
The rout was completed when substitute Jae Park played Dawson Fernandez through on goal and the striker cleverly lifted the ball over the advancing keeper Rehenesh TP into the goal to find his second of the match. That was the last action of the match as referee blew the final whistle and ended the misery of Chirag United.
The win takes Sporting to 30 points from 19 while eleven points.
Shillong Lajong defeat Arrows
Shillong Lajong scored a comprehensive 2-0 win over Pailan Arrows in the 19th round I League encounter played at the Yuba Bharati Krinangan, Kolkata, on Sunday.
With this win Lajong move to 24 points from 19 matches and move closer to safety while Pailan Arrows remained 8 points from 17 matches.
In the 6th minute of play John Menyongar moved with the ball towards the left and did well to draw a couple of defenders and then passed to a free Matthew Mayora, who just had to tap in for his first goal for Lajong.
In the 12th mintue Pritam Kotal of Arrows clearly caught the leg of Matthew Mayora in the box and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. The creater of the first goal John Menyongar stepped up and made no mistake from the spot to put Shillong Lajong 2-0 up.
From then on Shillong Lajong kept pilling on the pressure but could not increase their lead. Bijendra Rai for Pailan Arrows was the only one who looked dangerous but the Lajong defenders were very quick to close him down.
Sushil Kumar Singh on the other hand looked dangerous for Shillong Lajong making creative runs from his central midfield position.
CS Sabeeth the Pailan Arrows striker came on for the 2nd half as Pailan tried to make a comeback into the match. However the 2nd half was never really dominated by anyone as both teams played some scruffy football and resorted to long clearances later in the half as Shillong Lajong held out for a 2-0 win.
John Menyongar played a creative and delightful match which rightly earned him the Man of the Match.