Odafa Okolie inspired Mohun Bagan to come back from a two goal deficit, to draw 2-2 against Pune FC, in an I-League encounter at the Balewadi Sports Complex in Pune.
Chika Wali had given the hosts the lead in the 30th minute, with Izumi Arata doubling it in the 75th minute. Odafa pulled one back with the very next attack, before the Nigerian equalized in the 84th minute to leave the home side fans stunned.
Pune FC named an unchanged line-up from the one that garnered all 3 points against Sporting Clube de Goa.
Meanwhile Karim Bencherifa drafted in the quartet of Lalrozama Fanai, Celestine Anyichie, Snehasish Chakrabarty as well as Rakesh Masih, with Biswajit Saha suspended and Mehrajuddin Wadoo alongwith Lalrin Fela on the bench.
The away side started the brighter of the two teams, enjoying plenty of possession. However it was Derrick Pereira’s side that had the first opportunity of the game in the 8th minute, when Khanthang Paite found Subhash Singh with a good through-ball. However the striker fluffed his lines and even failed to test the keeper.
Odafa Okolie then created pandemonium in Pune FC’s box, as he dribbled past a host of players, but eventually his shot was deflected clear.
Subhash Singh then did well to latch on to a defensive error by the Mariners, dribbling past a couple of challenges, but his eventual shot was high and well over the bar.
This led to a period of domination for the hosts, as they won a couple of corners as well, but failed to take full advantage of these set-pieces.
Odafa continued to give the Red Lizards plenty to ponder upon on the counter, but Pune FC dealt with his threat adequately, if not always confidently.
Subhash then had a couple of more opportunities to open the scoring, but his finishing failed to match his overall movement and pace.
Eventually though the opener came in the 30th minute, as Douhou Pierre’s freekick was deflected into the path of Chika Wali, who could not miss from virtually 2 yards out.
Moga and Wali then had opportunities to quickly double their side’s advantage, but neither of them could hit the target, even with the goal at their mercy.
Aibor Khongjee then had the best chance for Mariners in the half, but he failed to connect properly with his header from a corner.
That proved to be the last piece of real action in the half, as the referee soon blew the whistle to signal the end of the first period.
The second half began on an even keel, with both teams showing plenty of intent. It was on a counter though, that Pune FC had another chance to double their lead, but after Moga found Paite out wide, the winger decided to cross wastefully rather than take a shot at goal.
The player, who is on loan from East Bengal, was then involved in a brilliant move with Douhou, leading to a shooting opportunity for Mumtaz Akhtar, but the central midfielder’s shot was wayward and did not trouble Shilton Paul in goal.
Odafa meanwhile cut an increasingly frustrated figure upfront, as his team-mates were often not on the same wavelength as him, leading to wasted opportunities.
He was left further agitated when the linesman rightly ruled him to be off-side, after he headed the ball into the back of the net, on one of the few times when he seemed to have gotten the better of the home side’s defense.
Subhash then missed another gilt-edged opportunity, as his attempted chip over Shilton Paul went just over the bar, much to the agony of the home supporters.
His strike partner Moga then went closer, but his rasping drive was well saved by the Mariners custodian.
Eventually though, the hosts finally got their second goal, as Douhou found Moga with a brilliant through-ball, and the South Sudanese striker then squared the ball for Izumi Arata to tap in, in the 75th minute.
However Mohun Bagan halved their deficit the very next minute, as Odafa rode a couple of challenges, before unleashing a shot, which took a deflection off Chika Wali and left Abhra Mondal wrong-footed.
The Nigerian then showed why he deserves to be the top paid player in the league, as he hit home the equalizer in the 84th minute, as he brilliant controlled a long punt forward, turned the defender and hit the ball home on the half-volley, to spark celebration amongst the Mariners staff, who had almost given up the match as a lost cause after Arata’s goal.
Shell-shocked, the hosts poured forward in the hunt for a winner, but Douhou and Arata both shot wide with their efforts from outside the box.
In the end the referee brought the proceedings of an action packed second half to an end, with the two sides sharing the spoils, a result that left the home side crestfallen.
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