I-League: Mohammedan SC, Punjab play out thrilling 3-3 draw

Mohammedan Sporting came from two goals down to hold RoundGlass Punjab to a 3-3 draw in the I-League on Wednesday at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan Stadium here.

Chencho Gleytshen’s brace was cancelled out by Faisal Ali and Pedro Manzi’s strikes in the second half, before Azharuddin Mallick had given Mohammedan SC the lead. Ashish Jha then scored the equaliser for Punjab in the 88th minute.

Coming off a 1-0 loss to Gokulam Kerala FC in their last match, Punjab showed intent in the opening minutes of the match. Gleytshen had the opportunity in the fifth minute to put the Punjab-based club ahead but his shot went wide of the goal. In the 15th minute, Joseba Beitia put Papa Diawara straight onto the goal with a well-weighted through ball. Diawara, however, with no real pressure, and only the goalkeeper to beat, shot straight down Priyant Singh’s throat as he made an easy save.

Although Mohammedan SC had a slow start to the game, they created more goal-scoring opportunities than Punjab in the match. After John Chidi failed to tap home from close range in the 14th minute, Faisal Ali’s thunderous strike was matched by a brilliant save from Kiran Limbu in the 23rd minute.

The deadlock was broken in the 34th minute when Chencho Gleytshen headed home from inside of the box after he was found by a Pritam Singh cross that looped over Mohammedan SC’s defensive pairing, giving ample time to the Bhutanese forward to thump home.

After conceding the goal, Mohammedan SC had three chances in quick succession to equalise their deficit going into half-time, but all the chances went to waste. First, Faisal Ali darted past Hormipam inside the box but failed to find the net from close range. Next, John Chidi sent a low cross to Faisal Ali but the latter was closed down by Kiran Limbu. And finally, Kingsley Eze’s effort in the 41st minute from a Jamal Bhuyan cross was heroically saved by Limbu.

After Punjab led by a goal to nil at half-time, the Curtis Fleming-coached side wasted little time in formalities in the second half and doubled their lead just seconds into the half. In the 46th minute, Gleytshen was found by a cross from the left flank and the Bhutanese forward shifted the ball from his right foot to the left, before unleashing a swirling finesse shot that crashed into the back of the net.

Unfazed by the second goal, Shankarlal Chakraborty made three changes to his lineup. The changes spurred the Black Panthers as they looked more threatening in attack. In the 59th minute, Faisal Ali pulled a goal back for the Black Panthers after he latched onto a loose ball and released a venomous shot from the edge of the box that left Kiran Limbu with no response.

Next, two goals in two minutes sank RoundGlass Punjab FC’s chances of winning the match. In the 65th minute, Pedro Manzi scored the equaliser as he toe-poked from close range after he was found inside the box with a cross from substitute Azharuddin Mallick to make the scoreline read 2-2. The provider turned the scorer in the 66th minute when Faisal Ali found Mallick by a well-weighted through ball that left the RoundGlass defence split open. Mallick had to find the net from close range and the substitute smashed home to hand the Black Panthers the lead.

In a matter of minutes, RoundGlass Punjab FC went from winning, to losing the match. That had a tremendous effect on their morale as they crumbled under pressure. The Curtis Fleming-coached side created chances but were often left reeling when it came to finishing. In the 78th minute, Suranjit Singh latched onto a Joseba Beitia cross and released a first-time volley that earned a good save by the opposition custodian.

Mohammedans’ celebrations were short-lived, however, as RoundGlass Punjab substitute Ashish Jha spoilt their party in the 88th minute. Jha ran onto goal, and without Mohammedan SC’s defence committing, released a venomous shot that crashed against the back of the net to make it 3-3. The full-time scoreline read 3-3 as both teams shared the spoils.