Substitute Victorino Fernandes gives the Goan side a much deserved point after a spirited performance against the Airmen...A stunning free-kick by Air India’s top scorer Elijah Henry and a late goal by substitute Victorino Fernandes resulted in a nerve-wrecking game at the Balewadi Stadium in Pune. Sporting Goa’s defender Keita Boubacar was sent off in the 30th minute adding to the excitement in a round 14 I-League clash at the Balewadi Sports Complex.
Anthony Fernandes named an unchanged eleven who were comprehensively beaten by Salgaocar FC in their last match. They started with a 4-1-3-2 formation with the Nigerion duo of Henry Ezeh and Elijah Junior upfront and the skipper Micky Fernandes playing just in front of the back four.
There was one change in Sporting Goa’s lineup, the Japanese striker Seiya Sugishita was replaced by Indian midfielder Freiman Peixoto. Oscar Bruzon started with a 4-2-3-1 with Dawson Fernandes as the lone striker. He was supported by playmaker Adil Ahmed Khan with Peixoto and Joseph Pereira starting wide.
The game started with the Flaming Oranje dominating possession in the first fifteen minutes. The first chance fell to Dawson Fernandes from a through ball whose shot deviated wide from goal into the side-netting.
The Airmen started really nervously and gave the ball away cheaply. The Goan club almost capitalized on their mistake as they broke from the left but John Dias’ touch prevented Fernandes to get to the end of a Joseph Pereira’s cross.
The home team had their first really opportunity in the 19th minute through Henry Ezeh. Samananda Singh failed to clear the ball with Henry breathing heavily down his neck and lost the ball inside the box. Henry shot towards goal but Ashok Singh was equal to the challenge.
Elijah Junior finally broke the deadlock in the 32nd minute when Henry was brought done by Keita Boubacar just outside the box. His curling free-kick left Ashok Singh a mere spectator. Keita was given his second yellow for this challenge bringing the Goan club down to just ten men.
The Airmen dominated possession for the remaining half with an extra man but there was no real action in front of goalmouth.
Oscar Bruzon made a tactical change at the start of the second half bringing on striker Sugishita for an unimpressive Peixoto giving them an extra attacking option.
The away team started the second half aggressively with Ogba Kalu’s long range shot going just wide off the target. A minute later, Ogba slipped a clever ball to the Japanese striker whose lob went over the keeper as well as the crossbar.
Junior had a golden opportunity to put Air India two goals up in the 52nd minute. A poor clearance by the Sporting Goa’s centre-back fell straight in the path of the Nigerian striker. His side footed shot failed to test the keeper however.
The home team took advantage of the extra man and constantly found players in open areas but failed to create any real goal scoring opportunity.
At the hour mark, Sporting Clube de Goa almost equalized when Pratesh Shirodkar twisted and turned two defenders on the right. But Sugishita failed to hit the target from a low cross by the right-winger.
Soon after, the Goan side had another chance in the 67th minute when Ogba Kalu’s goal-bound strike was deflected by John Dias resulting in a corner.
Substitute Sandesh Gadkari nearly sealed the points for Air India in the 87th minute with a powerful strike forcing Ashok Singh to make a fine save.
With just seconds remaining in the game, Oscar Bruzon’s substitution paid off. Indian striker Victorino Fernandes, who had come on for Dawson Fernandes, equalized for the Goan side as he thumped the ball towards goal after beautifully controlling a cross from the left wing. Air India custodian Jagroop Singh got a hand to it but he wasn’t able to keep out the powerful strike.
Both the teams fail to move up the table and are positioned 9th (Air India) and 10th (Sporting Clube de Goa). However, Air India has a game in hand having played only 11 games at the end of Round 14.
How do you stay up with football when on the move? With http://m.goal.com –your best source for mobile coverage of the beautiful game.