In spite of the relentless pressure from United SC, a youthful Dempo SC held on for a point at the Salt Lake Stadium...
United SC missed the services of their first and second-choice goalkeepers and were made to go with the inexperienced Abhijt Das in goal while Lalkamal Bhowmick started in midfield beside Tapan Maity. Eelco Schattorie preferred to use Eric Brown in a slightly withdrawn role behind Ranti Martins upfront.
Dempo under assistant manager, Mauricio Afonso deployed Jeje Lalpekhlua in attack with Clifford Miranda in a roving role behind. With Beto unavailable, this was a squad comprised of only Indian players. While Alwyn George played in the right wing, Jewel Raja played down the opposite flank.
The Purple Brigade were the ones who looked to seize the initiative from the word go as Ranti Martins came close to scoring in the fourth minute. Eric Brown took a short corner and exchanged passes with Souvik Chakraborty before putting in a lovely ball across the face of the goal which Ranti only had to tap in.
However, the Nigerian failed to get on the end of it and a clueless Dhanachandra Singh kicking it over instead of the empty net staring in front of him.
A minute prior to that, Ranti had tested Laxmikant Kattimani with a free-kick from the edge of the box after Peter Carvalho had brought down the Nigerian.
Kattimani was well beaten in the eleventh minute when Eric Brown received the ball from Ranti on the edge of the area and hit the ball on the run but could only strike the post.
In the 28th minute, a Clifford Miranda free-kick almost gave Dempo SC the lead. Abhijit Das had initially parried it out unconvincingly giving Pronay Haldar a chance to volley it towards goal but the youngster failed to find the net.
In the 41st minute Dempo could have had a lucky lead as Prabir Das's miss-hit cross from the right almost sneaked into goal but was tipped over by Abhijit Das who had initially misjudged it.
Two minutes later, Bello Rasaq was cautioned for a hand ball just outside the box as Jeje Lalpekhlua was clean through but Jewel Raja could only shoot over from that dangerous position.
The introduction of CK Vineeth at half-time seemed to inject pace into the United SC attack and the winger carved out an opening for Souvik in the 54th minute as he played a neat cut back to find the midfielder's run. However Souvik's side-footed drive went just over the bar.
This was preceded by a period of concerted pressure especially from the left as the influential Eric Brown peppered crosses into the box only to see it being all cleared by the Dempo defense which stood strong.
In the 56th minute a woeful back-pass from Peter Carvalho was seized on by Eric Brown who only had the goalkeeper to beat but failed to find the target from an acute angle as his shot went across the face of goal.
Four minutes after the half-hour mark it was Selwyn Fernandes whose casual clearance from the back fell straight to Ranti Martins who, like Brown before him failed to capitalize, shooting wide.
On the break, Jeje almost got an unlikely breakthrough as a long ball from the defense was not cleared in time by Hasan Al Moustafa who had let it run, only to see his goalkeeper come out and save the day.
In the 78th minute, Dhanchandra had a glorious opportunity to be the hero of the day as he skipped past the attention of Prabir Das in the box but his angled shot was well saved by Kattimani.
Two minutes later, a poor clearance from substitute Baldeep Singh allowed Alwyn George time and space to set up a shot but the youngster's effort went horribly wide.
In the 85th minute Ranti Martins did well to set up CK Vineeth for the shot which was well saved by Kattimani who was in no mood to be beaten in this game. A long ball by Bello was perfectly chested down by Ranti who was aware of Vineeth's run down the right and played a lovely ball into space for the winger.
Two minutes from time, Eric Brown almost single-handedly made the difference as his left footed piledriver from the right wing went just above the bar, with Kattimani well beaten.
In spite of United SC's relentless pressure in the second half especially, a youthful Dempo side held on to secure a gritty point in Kolkata. Eelco Schattorie meanwhile will be unhappy with his side's form in front of goal.
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