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Bagan scrape through a 2-2 draw against Air India

Air India 2 (Manandeep Singh – 21st & 39th)

d/w

McDowells Mohun Bagan 2 (Manish Maithani – 20th, Odafa Okolie – 64th)

PUNE: Odafa Okolie saved McDowells Mohun Bagan the blushes as he assisted one goal before scoring an equalizer, as the Kolkata outfit held Air India to a 2-2 draw in the 21st round I League encounter at the Balewadi Sports Complex on Monday.

With a clear chance to inch closer to league leaders Dempo SC, Bagan were not in their usual self—striker Sunil Chhetri was totally off-colour while defenders Surkumar Singh and Syed Rahim Nabi were listless for quite some time. Essentially they were lucky to have escaped with a draw after Air India pounded in two goals through man-of-the-match Manandeep Singh.

The day, however, belonged to Air India no doubt as they played bravely under the hot and humid conditions even as the match had an evening start. The home side left the famed Bagan line-up virtually ineffective. Odafa though, was in his elements creating chances after another.

After both teams tested the waters, Okolie moved from the right to take the ball right into the box before he sent it back for Manish Maithani after he was outnumbered by Air India defenders.

Maithani was just outside the box and he judged it well to send a lob which completely foxed the Air India custodian Pawan Kumar to score the first goal in 20th minute. But the home team wasn’t in a mood to give up so easily. On the counterattack, the Air India forward line sprinted up with purpose and in a melee a header from Bagan defender came to Manandeep Singh, who executed a bicycle kick into the post in 21st minute.

Air India’s best move came in the 39th minute when local lad Prakash Thorat broke through Bagan defence from the left and charged up before reaching the box having beaten one defender on the way. Thorat had an open goal with Shilton totally waylaid, but his shot from five yards hit the post, but Manandeep was in place and despite a few fumbles he shot in for a 2-1 lead.

On changing the ends, it was Mohammed Shafi in the 49th minute who made the move from the right, but his shot was punched out by Shilton well in time.

Finally Odafa struck the equalizer in the 64th minute after he got a free ball in the box. Five minutes later he would have given Bagan the winner goal but his shot struck the goalpost.

With one point from the draw, Bagan moved to 38 from 21 matches while Air India now have 28 points from 21 matches.

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