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Balwant denies Bagan a win

Churchill goalkeeper Lalit Thapa collides with teammate D. Ravanan (partly visible) in an attempt to thwart Mohun Baganís CS Sabeeth, at the Salt Lake Stadium. A Telegraph picture

Calcutta: It turned out to be one of those rare matches this season where Mohun Bagan dominated for a better part.

In the end, though, they had to remain content with the 2-2 result of Friday’s I-League encounter, here, at the Salt Lake Stadium, against Churchill Brothers.

Reason: Bagan had no answer to the Balwant Singh puzzle that denied them a victory while earning Churchill a point when they could easily have been subjected to a drubbing.

Bagan had fantastic opportunities to kill the game, but Katsumi Yusa and Christopher Chizoba weren’t spot-on in finding the target despite all the hard work.

Instead, Churchill were on the ascendancy in the 36th minute when Balwant steered clear of his markers to head home Thangjam Singh’s centre.

Churchill’s joy was short-lived because a minute later, Alesh Sawant’s attempted clearance off Katsumi’s centre ended up being an own goal.

The game seemed to be heading Bagan’s way after Christopher converted a penalty early in the second session, with the rivals under all sorts of pressure.

But moments before the final whistle, Balwant came to the rescue of his side with an awesome left-footed pile-driver, off Lenny Rodrigues’ long ball, denying Bagan full points.

For sure, the visitors were highly fortunate to end this game with a draw.

Barring Balwant, the performance of the rest, including the illustrious Abdelhamid Shabana, hovered around mediocrity.

Besides, referee Umesh Bora’s leniency saved them from two definite send-offs. Goalkeeper Lalit Thapa deserved to be shown the red card for an unnecessary foul on the goal-bound Christopher nine minutes after change of ends.

Surprisingly, Thapa was let off with just a yellow card. Again, in the 64 th minute, D. Ravanan pulled down Ram Malik, who was off the ball. And on this occasion, Ravanan, too, escaped with just a booking.

Ravanan, however, couldn’t escape from goalie Thapa. In trying to thwart C.S. Sabeeth and clear the ball to safety, Thapa got the timing of his jump horribly wrong and collided with Ravanan, who was down to the ground and had to undergo CT scan.

The collision ruled him out of the Churchill squad for their AFC Cup Group E tie against Indonesia’s Persipura Jayapura, on February 25, at Jayapura.

At the end of the game, Thapa, too, got a mouthful from the club boss Alemao Churchill while his way to the dressing room.