The Salt Lake Stadium was treated to an agonizing ninety minutes devoid of creativity or brilliance as the local derby ended in a goalless stalemate...For the fourth time this season, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting shared the points as the Salt Lake Stadium saw a drab display from both sides in an I-League encounter that ended 0-0 on Saturday afternoon.
Mohammedan started Josimar upfront with a five-man midfield behind him. Taro Hasegawa and Ishfaq Ahmed manned the wings while Sandeep Sangha and Luciano Sobrosa were drafted into the centre of defense.
Bagan meanwhile, missed Aiborlang Khongjee with Shouvik Ghosh coming in as his replacement. Odafa Okolie was back in the team supported by Christopher Chizoba just behind, with Katsumi Yusa partnering Denson Devadas in midfield.
Karim Bencherifa's side could have paid dearly in the first ten minutes itself when there was a clear lack of understanding between the back four and Shilton Paul. The keeper made a hash of a regulation clearance in the third minute before finally keeping hold of the ball with Josimar prowling. Three minutes later, a lax back-pass from Pritam Kotal was somehow kept out of Josimar's reach by a diving Shilton.
The next ten minutes saw Mohun Bagan keep hold of the ball but without much effect as their attempts to hoof a long ball towards Odafa failed more often than not. Echezona Anyechie was lucky not to concede an own goal in the 20th minute when he cleared a teasing Taro Hasegawa cross from the right even though Shilton was coming out to get the ball.
Two minutes before half-time, Odafa who looked decidedly off colour had a half-chance after he made space for himself even with his back to goal. From a Shouvik Ghosh cross, he threatened to unleash a shot but was stopped at the last minute by Sandeep Sangha before he could pull the trigger.
Odafa was equally ineffective from a free-kick after Katsumi waas brought down just on the edge of the penalty box. This was after a good one-two between Katsumi and Shouvik. The ambitious Odafa tried to find the top left corner but hit it horribly wide.
Two more half-chances fell to the Mariners before the break. First, Odafa got into the box but was adjudged to have held on to his marker, Sangha to make space to shoot. Then Christopher Chizoba dribbled past two players to get into the penalty area but failed to deliver as he let it go out for a corner.
While Bagan seemed to have upped the tempo in the second half, the game continued to be a scrappy encounter. The start itself was compounded with a five-minute stoppage as Josimar clashed with Shilton Paul who had to be replaced with Sandip Nandy.
The Mariners wasted two chances on the hour mark. First, Odafa slid in the ball for Manish Bhargav who was free down the right but took too much time to pull the trigger, allowing Sangha to clear. Then it was Chizoba who was released again by the Bagan skipper with acres of space down the right but his weak shot was saved easily by Ashok Singh.
Two minutes later, in their first foray into the Mohun Bagan box, Hasegawa's cross evaded Josimar and fell to Ashim Biswas who could only nod it wide. Josimar just headed wide in the 76th minute from a Penn Orji free-kick from 35 yards.
There was controversy in the 78th minute when the referee waved away shouts of a penalty after Pankaj Moula was shoved off the ball by Nirmal Chettri. The move was initiated by Odafa at the half-line who left his defenders on the ground before finding Katsumi whose cross-field pass found Moula perfectly.
Three minutes later, Mohammedan's corner was allegedly handled by Christopher Chizoba in the box, but the referee was again not interested, much to the anger of Sanjoy Sen who was gesticulating on the touchline.
Wasteful crossing was again at the forefront as five minutes before time, Pritam Kotal did ever so well to dribble past two players only to send a cross into the stands.
Penn Orji had a glorious chance to win the match for his team a minute before full-time after being played on by Josimar only to shoot wide of Nandy's goal.
The solitary point does neither team much good as both continue to be embroiled in the relegation scrap.
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