The substitute scored with three minutes left on the clock to deny Nathan Hall's side the much needed three points after Anwar Ali had given the visitors a second half lead.Pailan Arrows drew 1-1 with United Sikkim in an I-League round 18 match played at Kalyani on Monday.
United Sikkim stopper Anwar Ali gave his side the lead on 74 minutes but substitute Tirthakar Sarkar rescued a point for the hosts three minutes from time.
Both these teams aren’t exactly renowned for their goal-scoring exploits so perhaps it was no surprise that the game started on a very cautious note. With both teams trying to size up each other the game was full of endeavour and commitment but lacking in quality.
The hosts looked good in possession but were running out of ideas in the final third and their main threat in the opening exchanges came from Vishal Kumar’s long throws into the box, which caused the odd moment of panic in the Sikkim defence.
For the visitors, new signing John Landa Matkin presented the main source of danger as he was making a nuisance of himself for the Arrows’ defence.
Nathan Hall’s side were in greater need of the points and in a dour first half in which both custodians were mere spectators, the only real chance fell the visitors’ way just after the half hour mark. Nurudeen Salau sprinted down the left and sent in a pin point cross which was met in the area by Nima Tamang but the striker shot wide from close range.
The Arrows tried to hit back instantly and had a half chance of their own in the 42nd minute. After some good build-up play, Prabir Das found Lineker Machado in the box and as the midfielder cleverly twisted and turned in between orange shirts, Monotosh Ghosh came off his line to smother him. So, After a rather listless first 45 it was no surprise to see both sides go into the break on level terms.
Whatever was said in both dressing rooms during the breather certainly seemed to work and the second half started on a more lively note with both sides fashioning opportunities in quick succession.
Four minutes after the restart a hopeful long ball was pumped up the pitch by the home side and with midfielder Pronay Halder giving chase, Monotosh was alert and came out of the area to thump the ball clear.
Then on 52 minutes after another good Arrows attack, Saminlen Doungel’s shot from the just inside the box was well saved by the Sikkim keeper with an unmarked Alwyn George waiting to pounce. The men in orange countered swiftly, but the impressive Matkin couldn’t quite make the most of his chance at the other end and rather scuffed his shot straight at the keeper.
For the next twenty minutes or so the game settled back into its earlier pattern and there was nothing much to keep the already sparse crowd, engaged.
The contest sparked to life in the 74th minute when United Sikkim found that elusive opener through the unlikely source of captain Anwar Ali. Ashish Chetri who had just joined the action, floated in an innocuous looking free-kick from midfield but the hosts failed to clear their lines and after the ball ping-ponged in the box, it finally came to the big centre-back who volleyed home from just inside the area with a spectacular scissor-kick.
Arthur Papas’ men looked a bit shell-shocked after that goal, almost displaying surprise at the fact, the lowly northeast side were able to find the back of the net. The Arrows boss rung the changes bringing on Yumnum and Tirthankar in place of Vishal and Rajinder Kumar.
Just as it looked as though the away side would hold on for the all important three points, the substitutions paid off for Papas when Sarkar struck with 3 minutes to go to salvage a point for his team. Shaiju Mon was given ample of space on the right and he sent in a low skimming ball that flashed across goal before ending up at the feet of a totally unmarked Sarkar at the back post and the midfielder simply could not miss.
The match as a whole was hardly edge-of–the-seat stuff and the Arrows will feel lucky to have got anything out of it. For United Sikkim though, the result represents a body blow to their already feeble hopes of survival.
With the points being split, Pailan Arrows are in 8th spot with 19 points from 17 games. Meanwhile, Hall’s men have a mountain to climb and they remain rooted to the bottom of the table, with 12 points from 18 outings.
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