Two days after Mumbai FC deflated Mohun Bagan's pride, Air India, rebuilding again under the astute Bimal Ghosh, nearly grounded Mohammedan Sporting's hopes of a good start.
That Surojit Roy, cast off by the hosts, put the visitors ahead compounded a manic Monday till a man whose full name is Theodore Wrobeh Sunday snatched a point with a placement.
"At least we got something from the game," a visibly relieved Shabbir Ali, the Mohammedan Sporting coach, said.
Playing the away team's game with seven new players, Air India got more red shirts behind the ball than Mohammedan Sporting would be comfortable with. Goalkeeper Arup Debnath, another player not deemed good enough by Kolkata, kept them in the game despite a jittery start and Air India got their first look on goal in the 15th minute when Emmanuel Ovieghara, one of the three Nigerian recruits, headed Uttam Singh's long throw.
Mohammedan Sporting replied with a slick three-man move from Jothi Kumar, Theodore Wrobeh and Mike Okoro, the last-named selling a dummy and making a darting run into the area. The final attempt was saved by Debnath but it could have left Air India rattled.
They were anything but. Air India got the midfield to aid the backline, all the while sniffing for an opportunity to hit on the break. It came in the 23rd minute when Mir Farooq Haider got beaten and Air India produced their own three-man move down the right with more telling consequences. Referee Francisco Fernandes's judicious implementation of the advantage rule kept the game alive after Ovieghara was fouled and Roy blasted home.
Played at a sedentary pace, the tempo picked up after Wrobeh chested and drove home Jothi Kumar's deep free-kick earned following a needless foul from Nepoleon Singh on the right. Air India pushed personnel up and Jothi Kumar, looking lost in the first half, could finally execute his brief of making those runs and stretching the defence. It also meant that Roy could ask some uncomfortable questions.
Mohammedan Sporting's inability to use Mike Okoro's pace and guile because they couldn't play him on the wings made Air India's job easier. "Also, Theodore is returning from injury and (Adewusi) Adebayo is playing after a long time.
Given them one or two matches and the spark will be reignited," Shabbir said.
Results: Air India 1 (Roy, 23rd)
Md Sporting 1 (Wrobeh, 59th)