David Booth's side came from behind to share the spoils against The Pilots thanks to Francisco Fernandes's curling effort.A struggling Salgaocar FC were held to a 1-1 draw by Air India in an I-League encounter at the Balewadi Stadium in Pune.
Vijith Shetty opened the scoring in the 5th minute, with Francisco Fernandes scoring the equalizer in the 32nd minute.
Air India were nearly at full-strength and decided to continue with E.O Junior and Ezeh Henry upfront. Sandesh Gadkari and Prakash Thorat therefore, had to contend with a place on the bench.
The visitors meanwhile were without influential centre-back Luciano Sobrosa, with Rahul Kumar and Agustin Fernandes starting in central defense.
The hosts started at a brisk pace and won two corners in a row, but failed to make it count. However they didn’t take long to go ahead, as in the 5th minute, Junior put in a good cross, which was played on by Souvik Chakraborty into the path of Vijith Shetty, who finished on the volley, with aplomb.
They should have doubled their lead soon after, as Junior yet again provided the cross after a quickly taken free-kick, which Karanjit Singh spilled. Just as it looked like Souvik was going to the tap the ball in, Rahul Kumar came in with a last ditch tackle, clearing the ball for a corner.
The away side on the other hand, lack cohesiveness upfront, and failed to link-up effectively with each other.
Karanjit Singh was having a really shaky game at the other end, atleast twice coming off his line but failing to get the ball. On the second such chance, the ball fell kindly to Pradeep Mohanraj, whose goalward bound effort was saved by Agustin Fernandes on the line.
The away side then equalized with a bolt from the blue, as a punt forward fell kindly to Francisco Fernandes in the box, who curled in a fantastic effort in the 32nd minute.
Junior tried to restore his side’s lead instantly, but his shot from outside the box was straight at Karanjit, who gathered at the second attempt. Soon afterwards, the Nigerian had the Salgaocar custodian worried with a well taken free-kick, which went just over the cross-bar.
Eventually the two sides went into half-time tied at 1-1, with the Goans being the more content of the two sides.
David Booth’s side came out of the blocks quicker in the second half, and a slip-up at the back almost allowed Marcus Mascarenhas in, but Jagroop Singh smothered the danger at his feet.
The game’s pace then visibly slowed down, as neither side was keen to throw caution to the wind, and looked to hit each other on the counter-attack.
Milagres Gonsalves then found himself one-on-one with the keeper, but dithered long enough for Ramandeep Singh to make a last ditch tackle.
Neither side though, was able to fashion a winner, and the game ended 1-1, which meant Air India moved to 13 points, level with Sporting Goa, while Salgaocar moved to 11 points and displaced Lajong from 11th position.
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