Pailian Arrows, the experimental youth team of the All India Football Federation, opened the pack of surprises right at the start of the tournament holding former champion Dempo SC 1-1 in a Group A league encounter of the 34th Federation Cup football at JRD Tata Complex here on Wednesday.
In another match of the same group, Shillong Lajong FC got the better of Mumbai FC 2-1.
The Kolkata-based Pailan Arrows, coached by Australian Arthur Papas, matched the Goa giant move for move and earned some well-deserved credit for holding the five-time National and I-League champion to a draw.
Arrows looked the more enterprising in the first half and commanded the midfield with more authority. Alwyn George and Milan Singh held up the Arrows midfield and created good scoring opportunities against Dempo, which was more tentative in the first half.
With the first session remaining barren, the game opened up after the break as Arrows got rewarded first for its efforts.
Milan Singh set up striker Holicharan Narzary, who shot home from an acute angle to give Arrows the lead in the 52nd minute.
Dempo effected a change in its attack after conceding the goal, replacing new Japanese recruit Ryuiji Sueoka with Nigerian Koko Sakibo.
As the Nigerian increased pressure in the striking zone, Dempo’s utility-man Clifford Miranda fetched the leveller in the 60th minute showing fine individual skills.
Undaunted Arrows pressed on looking for the lead. It could well have ended with a win had not Narzary’s second attempt in the 85th minute ricocheted off the crosspiece.
In the other match at Keenan Stadium, Lajong FC opened the scoring in the 43rd minute when John Mayongar converted a penalty after a Mumbai FC defender handled the ball inside the box.
But Lajong’s lead was nixed two minutes later as Ndobusi Opara brought Mumbai FC back in the game with a solo effort.
The match remained deadlocked till the 82nd minute when Gbeneme Friday headed home from close range to give Lajong the winner.
The results: Pailan Arrows 1 (Holicharan Narzary 52) drew with Dempo SC 1 (Clifford Miranda 60).
Shillong Lajong 2 (John Mayongar 43 (pen), Gbeneme Friday 82) bt Mumbai FC 1 (Ndobusi Opara 45).
Thursday’s matches: At Siliguri (Kanchanjungha Stadium): Group B: Air India vs Mohammedan Sporting (3 p.m.); Churchill Brothers vs Mohun Bagan (7 p.m.).
At Jamshedpur: Group D: Salgaocar vs Prayag United (JRD Tata Sports Complex,3 p.m.); Pune FC vs United Sikkim FC (Keenan Stadium, 3 p.m.).