Calcutta: McDowell Mohun Bagan were only a few minutes away from recording what could have been a significant victory for them.
Tolgay Ozebe’s 49th minute strike — his first goal in this edition — had left Prayag United SC stunned. But a bungle from Nirmal Chetri moments before the final whistle denied Bagan a morale-booster they desperately needed going into their next matches. And it helped United SC finish with a 1-1 draw, in Kalyani, on Sunday.
Bagan defenders, led by stopperback Aiborlang Khongjee, had done their bit to frustrate the United SC strike force by cramping them up for space.
Besides, Salgaocar SC-discard Quinton Jacobs, too, came in handy as defensive screen in his first outing, thwarting United SC’s chances of having an upper hand, especially during the first half.
But just as it appeared that Bagan were set to register their first win since reinstated, Chetri — trying for a clearance — prodded an ill-directed grounder from Ranty Martins into his own goal in the 89 th minute. It was truly heartbreaking for Karim Bencharifa and Co.
What Chetri did was certainly a blunder. At the same time, Bagan’s over-defensive ways after taking the lead simply allowed their opponents to first settle down and then keep coming hard at them.
In the 69th minute, goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya came to his team’s rescue when he blocked a right-footer from midfielder K. Asif. Ten minutes later, United SC almost got the equaliser, off Shylo Malsawmtluanga’s cross. But fortunately for Bagan, the ball brushed substitute Lal Mohan Hansdah’s forehead and went perilously close to the second post.
However, better execution from United SC forwards Kayne Vincent and Ranty could have sealed the game before half-time itself.