Since Mohun Bagan and Dempo displayed attacking verve and defensive gaffes in almost equal measure, the draw was a fair verdict at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan here on Thursday.
Subair Muritala Ali showed there was more to him than putting finishing touches from handshaking distance. He fired a 25-yard cannonball after sending Dominic Noronha the wrong way with a sharp turn. And when Jose Barreto won a penalty in the 26th minute after Noronha felled him, Mohun Bagan seemed within a shot of a spectacular turnaround in I-League IV.
But Barreto's weak shot was parried by Laxminant Kattimani and the defending champions needed no second invitation to claw back in this fourth-round game. If Dempo finished the first half a lot stronger than they began, it was because Beto was beginning to break the shackles Jayanta Sen tried to impose by drifting wide.
It was also because they had equalised through 21-year-old Clifton Gonsalves and the chinks in Mohun Bagan's defense had started showing. Gonsalves struck with a soft poke from inside a crowded six-yard box after Snehasish Chakraborty failed to prevent Peter Carvalho from chipping a long ball towards goal.
Five minutes later, Ogba Kalu got away from Souvik Chakraborty but Shilton Paul denied him time for a shot -the first of many contributions that eventually fetched the Mohun Bagan goalie the Man-of-the-Match award. At the stroke of half-time, Ranty Martins dragged wide from some six yards, a distance from which the Nigerian frontman rarely misses. Dempo looked better in open play in the second half. Beto found Martins with a 30-yard pass but he couldn't keep his effort on target. Inside one minute, Rahul Kumar and Karan Atwal messed up on left and right. Paul saved one and Carvalho shot out.