Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The floor was decked up but the fare did not quite match the music and the atmosphere at the Ambedkar Stadium as the Osian's Durand Cup football tournament pre-quarterfinal league commenced on predictable lines.

Mohammedan Sporting and Air India played out a 1-1 draw while JCT, Phagwara tamed Tata Football Academy 2-0 in a contest that had some thrills in the second half.

A band group was in place to keep the crowd in good humour but the football dished out by two well-known outfits of the domestic circuit proved insipid.

Spectacular goal

Sporting failed to latch on to an early lead while JCT scored only in the closing stages, using its experience against the unsung TFA lads.

Sporting was guarded and probed the Air India defence with some sudden breakaways. Credit to Air India for putting up a strong posture and hitting back to nullify the lead that had come from a spectacular goal by Noel Wilson.

There was hardly a hint of a goal developing when Sporting created a foray. The hopeful thrust saw Bijen laying a backpass for an onrushing Wilson who wasted no time in slamming the ball in from the top of the box with a neat placement to the left of goalkeeper Raju Ekka. It was a superb goal as Wilson had timed and angled his shot cleverly.

Air India frittered away an opportunity when Bashiru Abbas propelled the ball over from close following a defensive lapse that placed the ball at his feet inside the box.

But the equaliser was not to be denied and Air India stabbed the goal in through Noel Fernandes, who flicked in a throw in by

Uttam Singh. The second half offered few opportunities as both sides opted to play it safe.

JCT fielded its Nigerian recruits Chidi and Adebeyo to plug any streak of complacency since the opposition was hugely inexperienced. But the TFA lads were not short of spirit, especially defender Rakesh Massi and attacking midfielder Branco Cardoza. They matched their opponents in every aspect but failed to sustain their resistance for long, conceding two goals in succession with just 12 minutes left for the final whistle.

Defensive lapse

TFA had the better of the exchanges but it was JCT that won. Praveen Kumar tapped the ball in for the first goal from a melee that ensured following a throw in by Balbir.

Chidi had first hit the crosspiece but the rebound was shown the right direction by Praveen.

A little later, Chidi signed off in style when he pursued a long ball and exploited the defensive lapse to curl the ball past the advancing goalkeeper Abhijit.

The results: Mohammedan Sporting drew with Air India 1-1; JCT, Phagwara bt Tata Football Academy 2-0.

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