In a match where both teams were guilty of missing chances, it was Mohun Bagan who held their nerves to secure a vital win, in their battle against relegation....
Dempo's poor run of form does not look like ending, as they were beaten 2-1 by relegation contenders Mohun Bagan, who secured a vital three points. The Mariners had romped to a two goal lead courtesy Syed Rahim Nabi (7') and Odafa Okolie (47'). The Goan champions got a goal back through Peter Carvalho in the 51st minute.
Karim Bencherifa went for a 4-3-3 formation with Odafa Okolie returning to the starting lineup, being supported on either side by Tolgay Ozbey and CS Sabeeth. Meanwhile Mehrajudin Wadoo partnered Ichezona Anyichiye in central defense.
On the other side, Dempo missed the services of Ryuji Sueoka while Laxmikant Kattimani started in goal, with Subhashish Roy Chowdhury on the bench. Climax Lawrence took his place in the centre of the midfield.
It took the Mariners only about seven minutes to open the scoreline after a free flowing team move. Odafa did ever so well to hold up the ball before passing it to Tolgay who had made a run through the centre. The Australian flicked it first time on to the path of an on rushing Sabeeth on the left flank whose first time cross found an unmarked Syed Rahim Nabi on the far post whose diving header gave Kattimani no chance.
Odafa almost doubled the lead in the 16th minute, after some more good work by Sabeeth on the left, as he kept the ball in play before finding his skipper just outside the box. The Nigerian spun around and let loose a fierce shot which went just over the bar.
Dempo had a half chance in the 25th minute when Miranda laid off the ball for Peter Carvalho who took a shot from outside the box but the shot was nowhere close to troubling Shilton Paul in goal.
Manish Maithani then did everything except finish two minutes before the half hour mark. He started the move from midfield and played a neat one-two with Tolgay before galloping forward. Tolgay exchanged passes with Odafa who slid the ball in for Manish who had made a lung bursting run into the box. With his first touch he took the ball away from Rowilson leaving him sprawling on the ground but pulled his shot wide, even though he had an empty net to aim at, with the goalkeeper out of his line.
Wadoo almost shot himself in the foot in the 35th minute, as he wanted Shilton to come get the loose ball, failing to see Koko Sakibo creeping up behind him, but his shot was too weak to trouble the goalkeeper. However Wadoo could have easily given away a penalty as the ball struck his hand, but the referee did not seem interested much to the anger of the visiting players.
Both teams were guilty of squandering gilt edge chances in the 40th minute. First it was Clifford Miranda, who found Koko Sakibo with plenty of space but it was some good bit of covering from Wadoo that thwarted the danger. On the other end, Maithani's darting run down the right resulted in him finding Tolgay in the centre, who instead of shooting slid the ball to Odafa whose side footed shot somehow eluded the net.
A minute before half time, Odafa was guilty once again, as Kattimani saved his shot. This was after Aiborlang Khongjee had made a great run from defense before finding his skipper with a fine chip.
It was disaster for Dempo just two minutes after the restart, as Syed Rahim Nabi ran unchallenged through the centre of midfield, before sliding in a wonderful through ball to find Odafa with only the goalkeeper to beat, with Cresson Antao failing to intercept the ball. This time the Nigerian made no mistake, and smashed it past Kattimani who had come off his line.
Anthony Pereira gave Colaco's men a lifeline in the 51st minute when he got to the right flank and drilled in a cross which was met wonderfully by Peter Carvalho, as he headed the ball in.
In the 54th minute, Okolie could have got his second, as Tolgay displayed a great bit of acceleration to beat his marker down the left before finding Odafa inside the box. The striker brought down the ball on his chest but strangely failed to connect with his kick, wasting the chance.
Dempo had two glorious chances to equalize in the following minutes. First it was Koko Sakibo who failed to direct his shot goalwards, with Wadoo putting in a block after the striker was brilliantly set up by John D. Menyongar. Next it was Peter Carvalho who hit his shot wide after being set up by Menyongar again.
It was Menyongar yet again who broke down the left and almost cut inside for a shot at goal, but was thwarted by a timely challenge by Ichezona, who actually came out worse off in the challenge.
Odafa was again one on one in the 78th minute with the goalkeeper, but the two Dempo centre backs had caught up with him, and the burly Nigerian could only elicit a save from Kattimani who palmed away the ball which was subsequently cleared by Antao.
In spite of a massive six minutes added on, the away side could not find an equalizer, as Karim Bencherifa's men recorded a massively important win in their battle against relegation.