Aizawl FC dropped points at home for the first time against Mohun Bagan in three seasons of I-League as they only managed a 1-1 draw at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium on Thursday.
Second-half substitute Lathathanga Khawlhring (73') scored first for the hosts. Manandeep Singh (78' Penalty) then equalised from the spot before Alfred Jaryan saw red in the dying embers of the game for an off-the-ball incident.
A fit David Lalrinmuana made his way back into the Aizawl FC eleven but the injury to defender Kareem Omolaja meant Lalhriatrenga was ushered in defence. Masih Saighani was also back as Paulo Menezes looked to shrug off their recent defeat to NEROCA FC at home over the weekend.
Sankar Lal Chakraborty made just one change from their Kolkata derby victory over East Bengal. Kinshuk Debnath was dropped from the matchday squad as young Rana Gharami was given a run-out at the heart of the defence.
It took under half a minute for the referee to produce a card. Yugo Kobayashi entered the referee's book for a high boot on Cameron Watson. Post that incident, both teams played some calculative football with the first real chance of the game coming only after twenty minutes.
Akram Moghrabi, in his second outing in Green and Maroon colours, shot wide after Raynier Fernandes did well to cut past Alfred Jaryan to create an opening. The Lebanese striker looked more confident than Aser Dipanda but was guilty of falling into the offside trap on more than one occasion.
The league's top scorer Dipanda showed signs of discomfort and was replaced by Manandeep Singh past the half-hour mark. Aizawl FC had nine shots in total in contrast to Bagan's four in the first half as both teams headed into the tunnel after a docile first forty-five minutes.
It was more of the same after the restart where both sets of strikers failed to grab hold of proceedings. It was only Aizawl's Leonce Dodoz who was proving to be a menace for Arijit Bagui but even the Liberian did not have the support from midfield.
In need of a clear change of scheme, both coaches played their hands at substitutions. While Chesterpaul Lyngdoh was brought in on the flank by the visitors, both Lalthathanga Khawlhring and Shylo Malsawmtluanga were brought in by Menezes.
Fresh legs proved decisive as Khawlhring broke the deadlock within five minutes of his introduction into the game. Leonce Dodoz's cross from the right was shot first time by the midfielder but Shilton Paul blocked initially. The rebound took a deflection and the custodian was blinded by Ricky Lallawmawma's failed attempt to commit to a goal-line clearance as the ball went into the net.
The lead and the joy was short-lived, however. Moghrabi did well to beat Lalrosanga from Watson's long ball towards the left but was then brought down inside the box by Avilash Paul after his shot went wide. The referee pointed to the spot immediately and Manandeep Singh scored his debut goal for Mohun Bagan from the ensuing penalty kick.
It was an action-packed last ten minutes. First, Andrei Ionescu's shot came off the vertical and then on the other end, Avilash was kept busy again from a barrage of corners, from which he emerged unscathed.
Alfred Jaryan did his side no favours as temper got the better of the Liberian. He was sent off for a high boot on Moghrabi in an off-the-ball incident in the last minute of regulation time. Aizawl held on for the four added minutes with a numerical disadvantage as both sides deservingly split points.
For Mohun Bagan, this was the first time they managed to not lose an away game to Aizawl FC, in their third meeting in Mizoram. The Mariners jumped a place into the top-four but trail arch-rivals East Bengal by two points. Aizawl are only two places and two spots behind them with fifteen points in their kitty.
The Green and Maroons next face Shillong Lajong away on 3 February while the reigning champions of India begin their maiden AFC Champions League journey in the preliminary qualifying round away to Iran's Zob Ahan on 30 January.