Mumbai FC 1 (John Coutinho – 44th)
Sporting Clube de Goa 1 (Ogba Kalu Nnanna – 76th)
PUNE: Mumbai FC let go a first half lead as the better team Sporting Clube de Goa rallied in the second half to draw their Airtel I-League opening encounter 1-1 at the Balewadi Sports Complex here on Saturday.
Sporting Clube de Goa dominated most part of the first half, but Mumbai FC stole the march early on through a cheeky goal from John Coutinho. The home team were on their way to take that as lucky one and be happy to have begun the season well, but Kalu Ogba scored off a spot kick to save the Goan team from early season blushes.
With the points shared, both Mumbai FC and Sporting Clube de Goa are on joint third position behind Pune FC (3) and Salgaocar FC (3).
Sporting began to take control early on when Rowlin Borges sets up Jovel Martins with a beauty of a pass, but the winger headed the ball out. Mumbai went on counterattack and earned a corner, but Nicholas Rodrigues’s shot was way off the target as Sporting goalkeeper Ravi Kumar collected it almost unchallenged.
Sporting were relentless with Jovel and Borges showing great combination—once Jovel getting caught off-side. It was time for the Liberia-born Australian Boima Karpeh to get into the act. He controlled the ball nicely, but the line referee flagged him off-side.
Soon after Gonzalo Neila made a sparkling move as he charged through the back before intercepting the ball on the run. His slick pass to Rowlin was wasted and the ensuing corner too resulted in a messed up attempt.
Sporting trio of Jovel, Karpeh and Cajetan Fernandes combined well from the centre before Boima took the shot that flew just off the right post. Sporting seemed to be getting closer to scoring but their finishing wasn’t up to the mark.
Arturo Garcia nearly scored in the 22nd minute despite a poor shot from the corner. Garcia was right in front of the Mumbai ‘keeper Kunal Sawant, who deflected the ball with his finger tips for yet another corner.
Then Boima came up with another cracker of a shot from the box, but the ball sailed clear of the crossbar in the 28th minute. Tempers flared up little bit when Dane Perreira and Boima pulled each others’ shirts, but the free-kick hardly threatened Mumbai’s post.
After several corners that were hastily taken by Mumbai FC, the ‘home’ team went ahead right at the stroke of halftime. Haroon Amiri was in the thick of things as he fooled Jovel before sending the ball out of his half. Mumbai FC chanced on the ball after the left side attack initiated by Manuel D’Souza, who crossed it to John Coutinho lurking just outside the box. Coutinho sneaked it past Sporting goalkeeper Ravi Kumar for 1-0 lead in the 44th minute.
Sporting were the much eager team after changing ends. Jovel was again on fire in the 58thminute when his shot from the left when he was almost in line with the goalpost, didn’t curl in much to threaten Mumbai post.
Just when it seemed Mumbai was happy to defend 1-0 lead, Sporting replied with 11 minutes from full time. After a good move that saw Stephen Berreto, Rowlin and Dawson Fernandes almost scoring before a last-ditch tackle saved Mumbai FC in the 76th minute.
Three minutes later, Keenan Almeida fouled Boima in the box forcing the match referee to point it to the spot kick. Ogba coolly converted the penalty as Sporting heaved a sigh of relief.