The north eastern outfit just about managed to sneak in a point from the home side with a late equaliser...
Air India were held to a 1-1 draw by Shillong Lajong in a I-League round 11 game at the Balewadi Stadium in Pune.
Souvik Chakraborty opened the scoring in the 69th minute with a header, with Boithang Haokip equalizing for the away side in the 85th minute.
The Airmen named an unchanged line-up from the one that comprehensively defeated Mumbai FC 4-1 in the last round.
Shillong Lajong named a strong centre-back pairing of Govin Singh and Minchol Son, with Gbeneme Friday and Sushil Kumar Singh upfront.
The away side enjoyed more of the possession in the early proceedings, as the hosts were content with playing on the counter.
And it was from a corner that Air India created the first real chance of the tie. L. Ralte failed to hold on to the ball, leading to an almighty scramble in the box, which Bulpin’s side managed to clear off the line with the Airmen crying out for a penalty, as they thought the defender cleared the ball with the help of his hand.
Friday then got on the end of a teasing Renedy Singh cross, but his effort went agonizingly wide, with the keeper off his line and well beaten.
The striker was handed another opportunity by a slip from Gagandeep Singh, but the former Mumbai FC player bizarrely tried to shoot from distance, when he could have gone into the box unchallenged.
Chances after those were few and far in-between, with the two sides heading into half-time tied at 0-0.
The second half was five minutes old when Ezeh Henry came close to opening the scoring, when his header from a Vijith Shetty cross came off the cross-bar.
The game then again settled into a midfield battle, with neither side showing much adventure with substitute Jacob Lalrawngbawla’s shot for Lajong being one the few shots at goal.
All of this was changed though, when a long throw into the box by Vijith Shetty was headed on by Gagandeep Singh, with Souvik Chakraborty nodding the ball into the back of the net in the 69th minute.
As expected, it forced the away side into attacking with more adventure, but with their strike pair not showing any sort of chemistry between them.
With the Airmen sitting deep in their own half, Lajong resorted to punting the ball into the box at every attempt. On one such attempt, a header was cleared by the hosts, but the ball fell kindly for substitute Boithang Haokip, who unleashed a terrific drive from outside the box in the 85th minute, to bring his side level.
Bulpin’s side continued to press forward, as they looked to take away all three points from Pune, but the hosts held on for a point.
The draw helped the away side climb to 8th in the table with 13 points, while Air India stay 10th with 11 points.
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