At long last, the capital’s very own team took the football pitch in an I-League tie. The AIFF XI, comprising youngsters, put on quite a display to hold ONGC 1-1 at the Tau Devi Lal stadium here on Wednesday.
The teams, both making their debut in India’s top-tier competition, began on opposing notes. While coach Desmond Bulpin’s boys began nervously, looking content to just clear the threats, ONGC looked to create inroads through forwards Badmus Babatunde and Ndubuisi Opara.
The young side rallied ahead at the half hour mark, exchanging short passes with Lalpekhlua and Malsawm Fela up front. Left-back Lalrozama Fenai impressed with his consistent precise crosses into the box from the flank.
ONGC took the lead at the stroke of halftime after a counterattack saw Tapan Maity head a ball in the direction of Opara who played a one-touch pass to Babatunde. The Nigerian made no mistake in calmly placing it in the back of AIFF custodian Jagroop Singh’s net.
AIFF had been losing out in the air through the first-half, which is what probably prompted Bulpin to bring on a taller Jagtar Singh to replace Fela up front to capitalise on the long-balls after the breather.
ONGC began sharply with Opara unlucky to have his shot parried by Jagroop in the 57th minute. The Mumbai team relied on swift counterattacks but that ploy was admirably blocked by the young AIFF defence.
The Delhi-side drew level in the 78th minute when substitute Shilton D’Silva’s weak crack from outside the 18-yard box was deflected in Lalpekhlua’s path and the diminutive striker placed slotted in the equaliser with a little help from the bar.