Football / Despite being held by Salgaocar to a draw
Salgaocar FC forced Mohun Bagan to a 1-1 draw with choking defence and marched into the semifinals of the 35th Federation Cup at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Tuesday night.
Nigerian striker Okolie Odafa gave Bagan the lead with a 61st-minute penalty while Bekash Jairu made it all square with a stunning long-ranger almost 20 minutes later.
Despite the draw, Bagan topped the four-team Group C with seven points from two wins and a draw.
Shillong Lajong, which rode on Cornell Glen’s three goals to blank Mumbai FC 4-0 earlier in the day, finished second in the group with six points while Salgaocar (four) and Mumbai FC (0) took the last two spots.
Bagan will meet Churchill Brothers, the Group A topper, in Thursday’s first semifinal.
Salgaocar brought in seven defenders, and, on a couple of occasions, eight, whenever Odafa threatened. There was always a crowd around him and the other forward Chizoba Christopher, and this did not allow them much space.
And there were two men, Freiman Pixeto and Gilbert Oliviera, keeping the Bagan playmaker Katsumu Yusa on a tight leash. Bagan tried to find a way through the left flank where Pankaj Moula appeared promising but he could not find a free forward for his crosses.
The breakthrough came in the 59th minute when Bagan earned a penalty after Christopher was brought down by Augustine Fernandes. Odafa coolly converted it, placing the ball to the left of the goalkeeper to give the Kolkata side the lead.
Salgaocar had a close shave nine minutes later when Odafa’s shot, off a Christopher cross, almost rolled in off goalkeeper Karanjit Singh’s hands. But Necolao Colaco made a fine goalline save.
Salgaocar’s 82nd-minute equaliser, from a 30-yard long-ranger, surprised everyone, including the scorer, Bekash Jairu. The rising shot stunned the Bagan defence and almost met Shilton Paul’s high hand before going in.
In the day’s other game, Glen, who played for Trinidad and Tobago in the 2006 FIFA World Cup, could do no wrong, as the second of his three goals showed.
Glen beat the Mumbai defenders and raced into the box in the 50th minute. Goalkeeper Kunal Sawant appeared to have blocked Glen’s attempt from close. But the ball still bounced off the fallen custodian and into the cage.
Glen had scored his first goal, off a penalty in the 16th minute when the Mumbai goalkeeper brought him down, and his last off a fiery free-kick.
The results (Group C): Shillong Lajong 4 (Cornell Glen, 16-pen, 50, 91, Haokip Boithang 24) bt Mumbai FC 0.
Mohun Bagan 1 (Okolie Odafa 59-pen) drew with Salgaocar 1 (Bekash Jairu 80).