Dempo SC registered a comfortable 3-1 win over hosts Air India in an I-League round 15 clash at the Balewadi stadium in Pune.
Ranti Martins missed a penalty in the first half but scored twice after the break with his strike partner Koko Sakibo’s goal sandwiched in between. Sandeep Sangha reduced the deficit in injury time for the Airmen.
For the visitors, Densill Theobald made his first start in the central midfield, while Air India started with their own two foreign recruits – Henry Ezeh and Takayuki Omi upfront.
Dempo won a corner seconds after the kick-off, from which they managed a tame effort on goal which was easily collected by goalkeeper Pawan Kumar.
Thereafter Densill Theobald started dominating the midfield and helped the Goan side create a plethora of opportunities. First the Trinidad & Tobago midfielder himself struck a fierce shot which was palmed away by Kumar which was followed by a chance at the far post from which the goalkeeper once again came out better from an Anthony Pereira attempt.
It was however, Ranti Martins to whom the best chance from open play fell, as Anthony’s low cross found him right in front of the goal but the Nigerian’s shot was somehow saved by the brilliant Kumar in goal yet again.
The Nigerian got a chance to make amends soon, as he took on the responsibility of taking a penalty won by Koko Sakibo, after the forward was bought down in the box. However Ranti yet again couldn’t find a way past the Airmen’s custodian, who brilliantly palmed away his effort.
The saved penalty seemed to spur the home side on, as they suddenly started posing a bigger threat to the league leaders and Henry Ezeh had two chances to put them ahead, but he fluffed his lines.
Just before half-time they went even closer as a free-kick whipped into the box saw Mahesh Gawli’s header come off his own crossbar which was turned out to be the last chance of the half, as both teams went into the break tied at 0-0.
In the second half, both the teams came out and played some decent attacking brand of football. Air India meanwhile were down to 10 men as Pratik Chowdhury picked up a second yellow card and was sent off.
Dempo capitalized on their numerical advantage almost immediately, as Ranti Martins finally managed to force the ball in, which followed after Cressan Antao’s ball into the box sparked a goalmouth scramble. Pawan Kumar managed to thwart a first attempt from Dempo, the ball fell kindly for the Nigerian striker to score his 16th goal of the season.
The goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of the home side as they had no reply to Dempo’s brilliant passing game. Koko Sakibo then thought he had put the Goan outfit further ahead, but his celebrations were cut-short by the linesman’s flag, which was up for offside.
In a desperate attempt to salvage something from the tie, Santosh Kashyap threw in Manandeep Singh for the ineffectual Takayuki Omi. However it was the visitors who found the net again, as Densil Theobald set up Sakibo, who calmly slotted the ball to the left of the helpless Pawan Kumar in the 79th minute.
Air India were then offered an unexpected way back into the tie as Royston D’Souza’s won them a penalty. Henry Ezeh sent the ball into the orbit, much to the disappointment of the Air India faithful.