Calcutta: A nattily dressed Subrata Bhattacharya was looking almost relieved, with his team leading 1-0, but in the dying minutes Nicholas Rodrigues’ brilliant freekick robbed United SC of full points at the Kalyani Stadium on Wednesday.
Making his debut as the United SC technical director, Bhattacharya would have wanted to begin with a win, but Mumbai FC did not let him have that satisfaction.
Strapped with financial troubles, United SC players are carrying on bravely, and the I-League campaign is no exception.
They were leading on Wednesday, via a Eric Brown goal that came in the 43rd minute. And just when it had seemed that they would be home with three points in their kitty, Rodrigues spoilt the party in the first minute of injury-time, with a gem of a goal, off a freekick.
It was new recruit Adekunle Waheed who set up Eric near the box. With goalkeeper Kunal Sawant trying to narrow the angle, Eric dribbled past him and placed in with a powerful shot.
The first half had seen United SC, under new coach Ananta Ghosh, dominate. And had Mohammed Rafiq not missed at least three chances, they would have been comfortably ahead. Eric and Baldeep Singh, too, had looked dangerous, but could not really translate their efforts into goals.
But after taking the lead, they inexplicably went into the defensive in the second half and the Mumbai team found their rhythm.
After the break, the visitors came back strongly, but missed chances were the order of the day, with Mohammed Rafi being the culprit on at least two occasions.
It was Man of the Match Rodrigues who ensured Mumbai FC did not go back empty handed. A smart ploy foxed Sangram Mukherjee under the bar. The freekick was granted a few yards outside the box and both Rodrigues and Yusif Yakubu lined up. With Sangram eyeing Yakubu, Rodrigues took a powerful left footer that kissed the post and went in.
United’s new coach Ghosh, however, denied that the team had gone into the defensive mode in the second half.
United SC are now placed eighth on the I-League table, with 19 points having played 16 matches. Mumbai FC are placed 10th with 15 from 17.