A match that remained as cold as the chilly evening here at Ambedkar Stadium for 80 minutes, sprang to life in the last ten to end in a tense 1-1 draw. During the I-League tie Mohammedan Sporting’s workhorse captain Marcus Joseph gave his side the lead in the 81st minute with a brilliant left-footer. But his Rajasthan United counterpart Joseba Beitia scored from the spot seven minutes later to equalise.
For the fourth match this season, the Kolkata side failed to hold on to their lead, adding just one point to their kitty. Joseph, however, moved up to joint-third in the list of top scorers with his fourth goal. One could say Mohammedan Sporting wasted an opportunity to bag three points, but coach Kibu Vicuna would recognise he owes this point more to Rajasthan’s mistakes than anything else. Beitia and his men created a lot of chances but could not convert them. In fact, the Spaniard himself wasted a penalty in the 29th minute before scoring with a scorching right-footer the second time round.
Apart from that, the Desert Warrior’s Kyrgyz recruit Atai Dzhumashev was incredibly unlucky as two of his free-kicks in either half (6th and 76th minute) hit the crossbar and the post respectively. Had the second one gone in, it would have been a world-class goal. So on another day, Pushpender Kundu’s men could have won this match by a good margin.
However, the fact that the home goalkeeper Rafique Ali Sardar was selected the Hero of the Match proves Mohammedan Sporting have had their moments. Poor finishing ailed them. That started from the fourth minute of the match when Syrian defender Shaher Shaheen failed to keep his volley off a Marcus cross down. Rafique made the first of his heroic saves in the 15th minute when Kean Lewis made a brilliant run from the left and found Marcus in the middle of the box. But Jagdeep Singh made a golden block. However, Marcus got a second chance which Rafique kept out. He once again denied Mohmmedan Sporting in the 35th minute as Abiola Dauda got a loose ball inside the box.
As soon as the second half got underway, Lewis found a lot of space in front of him and looked set to score as no Rajasthan United defender was around to stop him. But Rafique came a long way out to grab the ball before Lewis could even touch it. Mohammedan Sporting exerted more and more pressure on the hosts’ defence as the match wore on, and Rafique seemed to grow in stature, keeping out Abiola’s volley in the 73rd minute.
But even Rafique could not have stopped Marcus in the 81st minute. He capped a superb solo run from the left wing, got into the box, wrong-footed midfielder Bektur Amangeldiev and unleashed a left-footer that crashed into the net.
Having scored so late into the match, he could have justifiably hoped to have settled the issue but Mohammedan Sporting defender Ousmane could not take the pressure in the dying minutes, and handled the ball inside the box. Custodian Sankar Roy could not get anywhere near Beitia’s penalty kick this time.
Marcus did find Faslu Rahman in a scoring position inside the Rajasthan United box in the 90th minute but Faslu only managed to hit the side net. (ANI)