Having played all his life as a striker, both at the International and National level, Indian skipper Baichung Bhutia donned a new role for his club United Sikkim FC against Sporting Clube de Goa and ensured a 1-1 draw in the second division I-League final round at the J.N. Stadium in Shillong on Tuesday.
The Sikkim sniper turned a new leaf by playing one of the two central defenders — the other being N.S. Manju — to stave off Sporting's attempts to secure the match-winner.
Centre of attraction
For 80 minutes Bhutia was the centre of attraction to the spectators of the hill town before his coach Stanley Rosario replaced him.
During that period Daniel Bidemi struck for the Goan club in the 27th minute. Beikhokhei neutralised the lead with a 34th minute strike for the Sikkim team.
Bhutia showed tremendous anticipation and positional acumen to thwart the Sporting forwards from causing further damage. An out and out striker, Bhutia has a number of international goals to his credit. During his early days with East Bengal, Bhutia was asked to play as a withdrawn forward before he was put on the striking zone.
Vasco beats Sporting
But Mohammedan Sporting was not as lucky against Vasco Sports Club going down 1-2 in its first outing at the Polo ground. Prajot Naik struck in the fifth minute and Sachin Gawas increased the lead six minutes later.
It took almost 60 minutes for Chizoba Christopher to reduce the margin but the equaliser eluded the Kolkata outfit.
On the first day on Monday, another Kolkata team, HFS Southern Samity was routed by local side and last year's I-League team, Shillong Lajong FC, 0-3.
Edmilson, who sat out this game owing to a red card booking, was badly missed. The Brazilian scored a hat-trick against Lajong in a 4-0 win in the third place play-off of the IFA Shield.
The results: Sporting Clube de Goa 1 (Daniel Bidemi 27) drew with United Sikkim FC 1 (Beikhokhei 34); Vasco SC 2 (Prajot Naik 5, Sachin Gawas 11) bt Mohammedan Sporting 1 (Chizoba Christopher 60) .