Feb 11:Air India, in their effort to avoid relegation zone, toiled their way past a hard working Dempo SC side and pulled a surprising 2-1 win over their fancied opponents on a Sunday evening at Balewadi stadium, Pune.
Prakash Thorat, playing at his home ground, scored with an outstanding header before Henry Ezeh bulldozed his way past three defenders to put Air India 2-0 ahead within 10 minutes of the second half.
Dempo tried their best to rally from behind but could only garner a consolation goal when Liberian striker Johnny Mengonyar chanced on a defensive lapse in the 83rd minute.
The loss for Dempo meant that top five clubs in the I-League have a realistic chance of fighting for the title as the I-League goes into a 40 day break.
Armando’s boys had better ball possession in the first half, but all their efforts went in vain. Anthony Pereira ha a realistic chance to open the goal scoring for Dempo after he beat Air India defender Gagandeep Singh, but only to send the shot high over the crosspiece. Dempo showed a lot of urgency, but their moves failed to bore fruit in the first half.
After a goalless first half, Air India looked different team on resumption with Henry Ezeh and Elijah Junior finding gaps in Dempo defence. Skipper Vijith Shetty took a throw-in into the box in the 51st minute which was headed into the net by Prakash Thorat.
Eight minutes later, Dempo defenders failed to clear the ball and Henry muscled his way through the defenders to give Air India a reason to cheer.
Dempo virtually had lost hope while Air India played with confidence. The Goan team finally got their act together in the 83rd minute when Menyongar chanced on a defensive lapse and scored. Two minutes later, Menyongar sent a bullet from 30 yards but the ball ricocheted from the crossbar, which otherwise would have been a clear equaliser.
The win lifted Air India to 18 points but they will stay in the drop zone at No.12 while Dempo stay at No.3 with 35 points from 19 matches. East Bengal lead the table with 40 followed by Churchill Bros. (39) and Pune FC, placed 4th on 33 points.
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