Air India holds Dempo to goal-less draw

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Margao, Feb 5 (UNI) Dempo's hopes for the title received a jolt today after they were involved in a goal-less draw against Air India in their 15th round ONGC I League championship match played at the Nehru Stadium, Fatorda, here today.

However, Dempo's dominance was complete today, especially in the second half, and the home team could have romped home by at least two goals. But, good saves by Air India goal-keeper Arnab Das Sharma dashed the chances and both teams shared one point each from today's match.

Despite this drawn match, Dempo maintained its position at the top the table with 31 points from 15 outings, followed by Churchill Brothers with 29 points, Mohan Bagan with 27 points and JCT Mills with 26 points.

The fast-paced match, which saw Dempo having an edge with better share of exchanges, was restricted to mid-field for major part in the first half.

Dempo came up with a couple of good moves in the first half.

In the 22nd minute, Valerian Rebello, after collecting a pass from Nascimento Silveira, took a hasty shot which missed the mark narrowly. Dempo were almost in the lead a minute before the breather when Nascimento unleashed a rasping shot following a flag kick by Valerian. Rival goal-keeper Arnab Das Sharma failed to grab the ball which slipped from his hand, but was cleared away on time by Paresh Shivalkar.

After a barren first half, Dempo attacked vigorously and came up with five splendid opportunities -- in the 49th, 56th, 66th, 90th and injury minutes -- but faltered at the crucial junctures.

In the 49th minute, Renty Martin, after receiving a pass from Climax Lawrence, shot wide. In the 56th minute, Roberto Mendes Silva initiated a move and passed to Renty Martin who in turn passed to better-placed Edeh Chidi. But, Chidi's attempted shot was smartly saved by Air India goalkeeper Sharma. Then, in the 66th minute, Creastao Antao sent a floating cross to Renty whose header missed the mark.

Dempo had their best chance in the 90th minute when Nicolau Borgues floated a ball to Anthony Pereira whose header crashed against the cross bar and rebounded back into the play. Climax Lawrence missed a chance in the injury minute of the second half when he had only the goal-keeper to beat. His attempted try, however, sailed over the bar.

Air India's medio Nirmal Chetri was later adjudged the man of the match for his fine performance.

UNI SRN MAZ RR HT2154

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