Mohammedan Sporting got off to a winning start in its campaign downing Air India by a solitary goal in a Group B league match of the 34th Federation Cup here at the Kanchanjungha Stadium on Thursday.
In the second Group B league at Siliguri, Mohun Bagan survived a barrage of attacks from Churchill Brothers before escaping with a goalless draw.
Mohammedan Sporting enjoyed the upper hand in the opening session.
David Sunday and Ashim Biswas worked out quick passes and repeatedly opened up the Air India defence. Their creative efforts were nixed by poor finishing. Sporting came close to scoring as early as in the second minute.
However, Sunday, having outwitted the Air India defenders with a deft run across the right, could find only the upright.
The propensity for waywardness seemed to pervade Mohammedan Sporting’s approach as Ashim Biswas, Phoolchand Hembram and Jayanta Sen suffered some frustration missing a few good opportunities.
Sunday was unlucky a second time, finding the woodwork off his second attempt in the 49th minute — this time he found the crosspiece.
The failure of the attack in the first session was compensated by the deftness of left-half Mohammad Mukhtar, who ended the deadlock after the break.
The diminutive midfielder intercepted a defender and settled the deal for the Kolkata side with a powerful drive that found its way home in the 54th minute.
Air India could have fetched the equaliser getting two opportunities late in the half. But the Durand Cup champion could not produce the leveller with its Nigerian striker Henry Ezeh missing two good chances from close.
Churchill Brothers played with pace and purpose pushing Mohun Bagan to defending in the first 25 minutes.
The Goa giant came close to scoring on three occasions as the Mohun Bagan defence struggled to contain the opponent blitz spearheaded by Nigerian striker Henry Antchouet. The local favourite was spared its blushes by goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya, who made two brilliant saves in the 10th and 26th minutes blocking two good attempts by Henry.
The Nigerian forward messed up the third attempt in the 18th minute as he failed to connect a cross from Brazilian Roberto Mendes Silva.
Okolie Odafa began the Bagan resurgence with a solo effort in the 27th minute before releasing Jewel Raja with a deft assist on the 30th minute. The first attempt went over while the second came off the crosspiece.
The hurricane first half saw two more openings at either end. But neither Tomba Singh (Churchill) nor Tolgay Ozbey could produce the right finish to alter the scorline.
The second session was comparatively less active, though Churchill remained the dominant side and even netted the ball once. The 79th-minute goal, which came off Tomba Singh’s freekick, was however disallowed.
In the Group D league fixtures at Jamshedpur, Salgaocar SC beat Kolkata’s Prayag United SC 1-0 at JRD Tata Sports Complex with midfielder Anthony d’Souza scoring a 64th-minute winner.
Jeje Lalpekhlua scored for Pune FC as it edged United Sikkim FC 1-0 in the other match.
The results: Group B: Mohammedan Sporting 1 (Mohammad Mukhtar 54) bt Air India 0.
Mohun Bagan 0 drew with Churchill Brothers 0.
In Jamshedpur: Group D: Salgaocar 1 (Anthony D’Souza 64) bt Prayag United 0.
Pune FC 1 (Jeje Lalpekhlua 51st) bt United Sikkim 0
Friday’s matches: Siliguri: ONGC FC vs Kalighat MS 3 p.m.; Sporting Clube de Goa vs East Bengal, 7 p.m.
Jamshedpur: Pailan Arrows vsMumbai (Keenan Stadium); Dempo vs Shillong Lajong (JRD Tata Complex), 3 p.m.