Mohammedan Sporting’s terrible away record remained intact but Tiddim Road Athletic Union’s perfect record at the Khuman Lampak Stadium was broken on Friday, February 3. After witnessing 11 goals in the last two matches in the I-League matches, perhaps it was time for a dull goalless stalemate.
The defensive solidity and clean sheet will probably thrill Mohammedan Sporting coach Kibu Vicuna, but that alone will not help a team languishing at the ninth spot on the table. If Vicuna’s boys keep wasting chances like they did here, it may become difficult to avoid relegation, which is the coach’s primary objective.
TRAU, who are at the opposite end of the table, found the Kolkata team a harder nut to crack than they would’ve thought. Leimapokpam Nandakumar Singh’s wards had a mere one attempt on target in the game. That, too, came in the second half when Komron Tursunov’s corner from the left was headed by the Brazilian Gerson Vieira at the far post. Mohammedan Sporting custodian Zothanmawia palmed it out with impeccable anticipation.
Mohammedan Sporting had an overwhelming amount of the ball right through the match. But Vicuna’s strange decision to play Marcus Joseph behind the striker, rather than as one, clearly hampered the team’s chances. Regardless, the Trinidadian created the best chance of the game in the fourth minute. Gifted some space to shoot outside the box, he unleashed a strong left-footer which caught defender Manash Protim Gogoi’s foot. The deflection completely wrong-footed goalkeeper Jedidi Haokip but through sheer bad luck drifted on the wrong side of the post.
There were chances galore for Mohammedan Sporting through the first half. In the 13th minute, Kyrgyz midfielder Mirlan Murzaev cut the ball back to Sheikh Faiaz. Standing at the goalmouth, tried a cute back heel that failed to fool Haokip.
Soon after, Kean Lewis found a way to spurn one of his own. Hero of the Match Sairuatkima, on the overlap down the right flank, cut back a brilliant pass to Lewis right in front of the goal, six yards from it. Lewis went for power, too much of it in fact, blasting way over the bar. Barely a minute later, Marcus curled a free-kick in from the right. Mohammedan captain Ousmane Ndiaye just needed to get a touch, diving in vain as the ball whizzed past him.
At the stroke of half-time, a through pass found Lewis in the attacking third with the entire TRAU defence behind him. He shot too early and way over the bar. There was more yet to come before the referee blew for the break. Lewis turned provider from the left, crossing for Murzaev at the far post. Haokip had no problem grabbing the soft header on goal.
TRAU looked better in the second half, despite not troubling the visitors much. Unable to break open a resolute defence, they were forced to shoot from distance. None of Nandakumar’s changes worked and the unstoppable right-winger Salam Johnson Singh was neutralised almost every time before he could get into a shooting position.
Mohammedan Sporting would have the last say when midfielder Nikola Stojnovic’s 89th minute shot, from inside the box went wide. It was a succinct summary of his team’s finishing today.