AIR INDIA showed plenty of grit and gumption to share honours with Mohun Bagan as they forced them to play out a goalless draw in a 13th round encounter of the I-league at the Cooperage here on Sunday.
Mohun Bagan spearheaded by the two big B's - Bhaichung Bhutia and Jose Ramirez Barretto, soon after the kick-off went on the offensive and held dominance for the initial 20 minutes. During this period of ascendancy, both Bhutia and Barretto had a shy each at the goal.
The five-man Air India defence stood out and with good support from midfielder Michael Tayo managed to soak in the pressure and thwart the attackers.
The hosts best move in the first session was when Sanju Pradhan intercepted Lalkamal Bhowmick's pass inside the Air India half and accelerated down the middle before switching the ball for Bashiru M Abass. The latter delayed and could only manage a weak attempt, which was taken care of by the Bagan defence.
Bhutia almost opened the scoring but his header off Barretto's centre from the right sailed across the Air India goalmouth.
The Bagan citadel survived two scares in the second half. Defender D. Mohanraj, in an attempt to cut off Uttam Singh's long throw-in, headed the ball towards his goal. Fortunately, goalkeeper Sangram Mukherjee was alert to tip it over for a corner.
Later, Pradhan's swerving cross deceived his teammates upfront, the Bagan defence and Mukherjee, but was unlucky that the ball crashed into the far upright in the 60th minute.
Bagan continued to look out for a goal but attempts from Dharamjit, Jonathan, Mohanraj, Lawampuia and Bhutia failed to find their way into the goal and they were forced to settle with a division of two points.
Bagan stay in fourth spot with 21 points while Air India also remain sixth place with 15 points.
Bagan's Brazilian coach Carlos Roberto Pereira blamed the midfield for the loss of two points. "The midfield didn't play that well. They were not organised and failed to combine with the strikers," said Pereira at the post-match press briefing.
Bimal Ghosh too was not happy with the draw. "We should try to win all our home matches as the points are very important."
The coach was also not happy with the finishing of the strikers. " Sanson and Nigerian Bashiru missed some easy chances. Tayo, won the man-of-the-match award. But I was not satisfied with his performance. He needs to score goals like he does at practice," Ghosh said.
Air India 0 drew with Mohun Bagan 0.