Mumbai, Dec 3 (UNI) Air India hung on to force a draw with Viva Kerala, their third successive draw in a third round I-League encounter at the Cooperage here today.
Infact the airmen almost pulled off a win over a defensive minded Viva Kerala with the match finally ending in a 1-1 draw.
The result leaves the promoted Keralites with four points from three matches (a win, draw and loss each) while the airmen have one less from their third successive tie on the trot.
Midfielder Tabia Othalo gave Viva Kerala the lead, his opportunistic 30-yard shot in the 16th minute finding the net after catching Air-India goalkeeper Sarath E C napping.
Air-India, who were doing all the attacking, got their equaliser two minutes later after skipper Bashiru Abbas nodded home a throw in by Uttam Singh from the right flank.
The high-flying locals, however, got their wings clipped in the 32nd minute when their Cameroonian striker Njoh Jean was red carded for a purported off-the-ball foul on Viva Kerala's African stopper back Tutu George.
Referee Deepak Singh (Delhi) consulted linesman Dinesh Nair (Gujarat) before giving him the marching orders.
George, who writhed on the turf in great distress, however looked hale and hearty no sooner had he left the field for treatment.
Timid Viva Kerala, however, sadly showed no inclination to take advantage of their numerical superiority thereafter, leaving the spectators wondering how they had shocked Mohun Bagan away in the second round and also Air-India in the Federation Cup earlier.
They did, however, string together a few moves in the second half but only once stretched Sarath, who had to tip over a header by Badmus Babatunde in the 65th minute.
The African, top scorer in the I-League qualifiers last year, later shot wide from the top of the box after being set up by compatriot Wisdom Abbey.
At the other end, Nelson pulled off two saves in quick succession to deny Dhanachandra Singh and substitute Samson Singh respectively.
He was however lucky that Paresh Shivalkar's header in the 84th minute from an Uttam throw in, grazed the horizontal and went out.