KOLKATA: Mohammedan Sporting Club were held to a 3-3 draw by a resilient Roundglass Punjab FC side in a thrilling Hero I-League championship round clash which was played at the iconic Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan on Wednesday.
The Black Panthers dominated the entertaining game and will not be entirely disappointed with a take away of one point.
Chencho Gyeltshen (34′ & 46′) and Ashish Jha (88′) were on target for Punjab while Mohammedan struck through Faisal Ali (59′), Pedro Manzi (65′) and Azharuddin Mallick (66′).
Mohammedan started the game at a high tempo, trying to put Punjab on the back foot from the beginning. Manzi was enjoying himself and seemed refreshed creating constant danger to the Punjab defence. Jamal Bhuyan was also playing well. The Bangladesh skipper controlled the game for his side with a lot of the action directed through him.
Mohammedan were pressing high without the ball, trying to put pressure on the Punjab defence which looked organised and comfortable to dictate the pace of the match and limit Mohammedan’s options to counterattacks.
Nonetheless, Mohammedan’s confidence slowly started to grow as the first-half unfolds. Possession-wise Mohammedan seemed to have the upper hand and certainly in terms of shots on goals the Black Panthers were keeping their opponent’s goalkeeper Kiran Limbu much busier than their own custodian Priyant Singh was.
The two sides continued to cancel each other in the middle of the whiles trying to break on the counter attack.
With Mohammedan struggling to open up Punjab’s well organised defence and the game opening up, Curtis Fleming’s charges sensed their opportunity on the counter. Against the run of play, Chencho started the move by sending the ball onto the right to Pritam Singh. The winger found Chencho again in the middle of the area with an outside the boot cross, and the Bhutanese headed it past Priyant in the 34th minute.
The setback galvanised Mohammedan into action and they poured forward in search of an equaliser. The Punjab defence, while under pressure at this stage, held firm and ensured that they retained the advantage.
However it was Punjab who doubled their advantage immediately after the teams came out of the sheds. Akash Sangwan’s cross found Chencho at the far post, and the Bhutanese cut past Manoj Mohammed before firing his shot past Priyant into the top right-hand corner.
With Punjab taking a two-goal lead, Mohammedan had to produce something truly special to turn things around and they did exactly the same. The Black Panthers pulled ahead 3-2 from 2-0 down in a matter of seven minutes.
First it was Faisal Ali, who struck from inside the box in the 59th minute after Manzi beautifully flicked a long ball onto his path. Six minutes later Manzi turned from provider to goal-scorer after he chested down Hira Mondal’s cross and volleyed his strike towards the goal. Kiran got a hand out to it, but it is not enough to keep the powerful shot out. It was 3-2 in the very next minute as Faisal slipped a pass-through to Azharuddin, and the substitute slotted it past Kiran.
With the score at 3-2, Punjab upped the ante and turned the tables on their opponents. Sanju Pradhan spotted Ashish at the edge of the area and sent him through on goal. The substitute latched on the through ball and found the back of the net in the 88th minute.
The Black Panthers pressed hard for the winner, but the referee’s five-minute added time could not assist to break the deadlock.
Mohammedan who now have 17 points from 12 matches will face Gokulam Kerala next on March 15 at Kalyani Stadium.