Mumbai: Haitian winger Sony Norde missed one of the easiest of chances that one could have ever dreamt about as defending champions Mohun Bagan were held to a goalless draw by a spirited Mumbai FC in their fifth round encounter of the I-League football tournament.
Bagan remain third in the league table with 11 points from five games behind Bengaluru FC and East Bengal, who are in the first and second position currently with 15 and 14 points respectively. Mumbai FC with nine points from six games are in fourth place.
It was in the 69th minute that Bikramjit Singh freed Bagan's Japanese mideo Katsumi Yusa as the Mumbai FC defence were left stranded trying to lay an off-side trap. Katsumi entered through right and kept the perfect pull-back for a surging Norde, who sprinted down left only to find his powerful tap hitting the left vertical.
After a slow start, the game picked up pace but also degenerated into a brawl with seven players in all, from both sides, being booked by referee B Balasubramaniam. Among those was Mumbai's Pratik Chowdhary for a rough tackle on Bagan's Cornel Glen in the first half and then intentionally hacked Bagan skipper and speedy winger Katsumi Yusa in the middle of the pitch early in the second, for which he deserved to be booked again and sent off. But the referee just cautioned him.
In the first half, neither team had a clear look at the rival goal and were foiled on two occasions from scoring by the respective goalkeepers. Eric Brown's 35-yard pile driver following a free kick was well-saved by Bagan goalkeeper Debjit Majumder.
Later Pawan Kumar under the Mumbai FC bar saved Sony Norde's free-kick in first half injury time. The second half was more lively with both the teams going full blast and in the resultant rough play five Mumbai FC players ¿ Allan Dias, standby captain N P Pradeep, Pratik and substitutes Asif Kotayil and Ashutosh Mehta ¿ were booked.
From the Bagan side Luciano Sobrosa and Bikramjit were shown the yellow card. Katsumi himself had a golden chance to score in the 82nd minute off a superb diagonal from Norde following a counter attack from the left but he shot straight at the goalkeeper, who collected it easily.
Just before this try was a period of rough play during which in a six-minute spell three players from both teams were booked. Mumbai clearly missed their influential midfielder Taisuke Matsuge, who has a calf injury, though Bagan too were without some key players who are playing in the ongoing South Asian Games.