The Mumbai side yet again failed to snatch all three points after taking a lead as Pailan's losing streak came to an end...
Air India yet again failed to hold on to a lead, being held to a 1-1 draw by Pailan Arrows in an I-League encounter at the Balewadi stadium in Pune on Saturday.
Ezeh Henry gave the hosts the lead in the 37th minute, before Rajinder Kumar equalized in the second minute of first half injury time.
The Airmen continued to persist with the strike partnership of Elijah Junior and Henry Ezeh, leaving Sandesh Gadkari on the bench.
The Arrows meanwhile gave Seminlen Doungel his first start, after the striker joined the club from East Bengal on loan.
After a scrappy initial 15 minutes where neither team could create any chances, as well as failing to really string together a few passes, Prabir Das’ dangerous cross into the box created the first real opportunity of the game. Holicharan Narzary got to the end of it, but failed to direct it on target.
Doungel then brilliantly anticipated a through ball by Rajinder Kumar, but a last ditch tackle by Rahul Bheke prevented him from testing Jagroop Singh in goal.
While Air India continued to look threatening on the counter, Pritam Kotal came the closest to score for the away side, as his header came crashing back off the post.
Vijith Shetty replied with a pile-driver of his own on the other side, but failed to find the target.
Doungel then missed a sitter, when Narzary found him on a counter which started from an Air India corner. With the goal at his mercy, the on-loan East Bengal striker should have done better.
And the Arrows were ruthlessly punished by the hosts in the very next attack in the 37th minute, as M. Pradeep squared the ball for Ezeh Henry, who made no mistake from inside the box.
Soon after, another ball fell kindly for the Nigerian at the edge of the box, but his venomous strike was straight at Soram Poirei, who clung on to the ball gratefully.
Just as it looked that the Arrows will have nothing to show in the half for their superior quality on the ball, Rajinder Kumar scored in the 47th minute with a brilliantly taken solo effort, as he breezed in from the right wing, cut past a couple of challenges and unleashed a shot which Jagroop Singh had no answer to.
That proved to be virtually the last kick of the half, as the referee blew the half-time whistle soon after.
The second half began in a similar fashion to the first, with neither side able to stamp their authority on the game.
However the momentum shifted decidedly in Air India’s favour in the 61st minute, when Holicharan Narzary was sent-off for a second bookable offense, after mistiming a tackle on Vijith Shetty.
Souvik Chakraborty had a chance to test the keeper from just outside the box, but his effort was very tame and easily collected by Soram.
Milan Singh replied with a weak effort of his own, which Jagroop Singh easily collected.
M. Pradeep had a chance to capitalize on Air India’s one man advantage, but he failed to connect properly with a brilliant cut-back by Ezeh Henry, failing to even test the keeper.
The Arrows though, slowly took over the proceedings again, and gave the home side plenty to ponder over at the back.
However some naïve defending at the back by Kotal, almost gave Air India the chance to restore their lead, as Ezeh Henry pounced on the loose ball and squared it for Vijith Shetty. Just as it looked that the midfielder would score in the second game running, Soram Poirei came up with a fabulous save, to thwart him.
The former Pune FC keeper then quickly got on his feet to deny Souvik on the re-bound as well.
The custodian then did even better to tip over a header by Micky Fernandes, as the Airmen looked to get a winner. The ensuing corner should have been turned in by one of the several Air India players in the box, but the ball trickled wide, having passed invitingly in front of the Pailan goal.
Anthony Fernandes threw in Prakash Thorat and Sandesh Gadkari, in a desperate bid for a winner, but they were unable to breach a disciplined Pailan defense, with an inspired Soram Poirei behind them.
The custodian somehow managed to keep Souvik’s header wide, with his defenders managing to clear the subsequent scramble in the box.
Eventually the referee blew his whistle to bring a close game to an end, and also snapped Pailan’s losing streak. Air India though have now drawn 4 of their last 5 games, having led at one stage in all of them.
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