Bhaichung Bhutia's joy on the bench was cut short by an injury time penalty-kick by Obagemiro Junior to score the crucial equaliser for his side..United Sikkim shared the spoils with Air India in an I-League encounter at the Balewadi stadium in Pune which finished with the scoreline at 3-3, with the last 5 minutes seeing 3 goals being scored.
The Airmen went ahead thanks to Obagemiro Junior’s effort from the spot in the 45th minute, after Ezeh Henry had been bought down in the box. Their lead did not even last a minute, as Nuruddin Salau equalized straight from kickoff in the 46th minute.
Salau doubled his and United Sikkim’s tally in the 73rd minute. Gagandeep Singh thought he had salvaged a point for the hosts in the 89th minute with a rasping volley, only for Anwar Ali to restore his side’s lead in the 90th minute with a headed goal. In the last twist of the game, the referee deemed Ezeh Henry was fouled in the box, and gave the hosts a penalty, which was converted by Junior in the 94th minute.
The hosts started with Sukhwinder Singh in goal, while Ezeh Henry and Junior led the line. United Sikkim meanwhile kept faith in the same set of players who earned a hard fought draw against Pune FC.
The Snow Lions enjoyed early spells of possession, but found it difficult to make much headway against a very organized Air India defense. Junior and Henry combined well on the counter and often stretched the opposing side’s defense. On one such occasion they fashioned a chance for Souvik Chakraborty, but he failed to hit the target.
Ezeh Henry continued to make intelligent runs in-behind the defense and was brilliantly found by his strike partner half-way through the half, but he dithered on the ball, allowing Sandesh Jhingan to make a last ditch tackle. The Nigerian then forced Monotosh Ghosh into executing a finger-tip save, as he pushed the forward’s effort over the bar. Ghosh had to be alert again as he palmed away Henry’s snapshot from the edge of the box.
Ghosh could do nothing though, when Junior gave his side the lead from the spot in the 45th minute, as Jhingan sloppily mis-read the bounce and ended up pulling Henry down. However their lead last didn’t last long, as a blip in concentration allow Salau through, who finished with aplomb to get Bhaichung Bhutia’s side back to level terms.
There was barely any-time for Air India to kick-off the proceedings again, before the referee blew the half-time whistle.
The second half started off as a tight affair with neither side really looking to take the initiative. Baldeep Singh’s dipping volley was the first real shot on goal of the half, and that came 15 minutes into the proceedings.
Junior and Henry continued to cause a problem to the away side with their movement, but they were hit by the proverbial sucker-punch in the 73rd minute, when the Airmen failed to deal with the physical presence of D. Attivi and he created a chance for Salau, who made no mistake in slotting the ball into the net.
Gagandeep Singh then equalized for the home side in the 89th minute with a rasping drive from the edge of the box, but barely a minute had passed before a ball floated in by Michael Rodrigues was met by a thumping header from Anwar Ali, sparking wild celebrations on the away side’s bench.
However four minutes into injury time, their enthusiasm was deflated when the referee pointed to the spot for a foul on Henry, with Junior calmly dispatching the ball home from the spot. The referee then bought the action packed game to an end, meaning that both the sides had to contend with a point each.
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