Newly promoted ONGC bagged their first points from the I-League as they held star-studded Prayag United 1-1 in their third-round match at the Ambedkar Stadium here Friday.
Courtesy the result, ONGC moved to one point from three matches while Prayag moved to four points from three matches.
Eric Brown’s curling free-kick in the 36th minute put ONGC in the lead in the first half. Brown’s free-kick attained the height to sail over the Prayag wall; dipped enough to be in the frame and was perfectly directed to beat a diving Subrata Pal to his left.
However, Ranti Martins restored parity for Prayag in the 88th minute when he headed in substitute Lester Fernandes’ cross. This was Ranti’s 150th goal in the I-League.
The first half was evenly contested even as Prayag United enjoyed territorial domination. Nevertheless, ONGC muffed the easiest chance of the half.
Much against the run of play in the 18th minute, ONGC’s Japanese striker Yusa Katsumi snatched it from Prayag defender Gouramangi Singh, broke into the rival box but eventually failed to tap it past an onrushing Subrata Pal.
Prayag preferred to attack down the right flank with Shylo Malsawmtulunga trying to make inroads into the rival box and one of those floaters almost led to Prayag’s first goal in the 33rd minute. Md. Rafique leaped high to head a Syhlo centre but a diving rival goalkeeper Bifilang Narzary kept him at bay. Much to frustration of the Prayag bench, Ranti Martins failed to tap in the rebound from close.
ONGC took the lead three minutes later. Eric Brown curled his left-footed freekick over the Prayag wall and it dipped in perfectly to beat a diving Pal in the 36th minute, a lead which ONGC held on till the interval.
Changing over, Prayag tried to push forward. But their penchant of depending a bit too much on long balls made ONGC’s job easier. Ranti was marked well and with former India International Jatin Bisht breathing down Carlos Hernendez’s neck, the Costa Rican World Cupper felt suffocated. Carlos was eventually substituted by Kayne Vincent in the 60th minute.
ONGC depended on counter-attacks. In the 50th minute, Yusa’s placement missed by inches while in the 65th minute, Brown, all free, blasted his left-footer over from inside the box.
In an effort to have someone hold onto the ball in the midfield, Lalkamal Bhowmick was brought in place of Rafique. Bhowmick did try to make an impact as he tried to be the feeder to Ranti and Vincent upfront.
The move helped as Prayag eventually equalised in the 88th minute -- Ranti’s header off a Lester cross bulging the net.
Immediately, after the equaliser, Brown was red-carded as he received his second yellow card of the match for pushing Gouramangi off the ball. During the dying minutes, Prayag stayed lucky as Man-of-the-Match Yusa latched onto a Jatin pass but with Subrata Pal beaten, his tap agonisingly hit the post.