Aizawl FC ended their run of four consecutive losses and made a huge dent in Sreenidi Deccan's I-League title hopes with a 1-1 draw at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Aizawl on Tuesday.
The result means Sreenidi Deccan are now two points below leaders RoundGlass Punjab, who have a game in hand.
After a largely cagey contest, Sreenidi Deccan's Rilwan Hassan broke the deadlock in the 80th minute just after the Aizawl captain and goalkeeper Lalmuansanga was shown a red card for a handball offence outside the area. Aizawl, despite being a man down, managed to equalize through substitute Ivan Veras, as the two teams shared points for the second time this season.
The hosts got off to a slightly better start. The young duo of Lalchhanhima Sailo and R. Ramdinthara were active on the wings and whipped in multiple crosses aiming for Henry Kisekka inside the box. However, the hosts were unable to get a shot on target in the first half. They got closest in the 26th minute when Ramdinthara got inside the six-yard box to receive a cross from the left wing before skying his effort.
Although Aizawl was wasteful in the final third, they were successful in keeping Sreenidi's Faysal Shayesteh out of the game for the most part. The Afghan midfielder had to drop deep to try and dictate the play but was unsuccessful. However, three minutes from halftime, Shayesteh got a chance to break the deadlock but his free-kick was safely fisted over the bar by Lalmuansanga in the Aizawl goal.
The best chance of the first period came in the add-on time for Sreenidi. Louis Ogana, who was anonymous for the majority of the first half, received the ball on the edge of the penalty area and flicked it goalside before taking a low volley which hit the post.
The second half saw the game open up more and it was the visitors who did most of the attacking. Ogana's increased involvement in the game was the major reason for Deccan Warriors' better transitional play. In the 72nd minute, Shayesteh took a quick free-kick and played a lobbed pass onto the path of Ogana, and the Nigerian tried to send his shot over Lalmuansanga, who had come off his line to cut off the Afghan's pass. However, he handled the ball outside the penalty area in his attempt to save Ogana's shot, resulting in his sending-off.
The visitors quickly took advantage of the situation and opened the scoring in the 80th minute. A loose ball in the penalty area was headed into the path of new signing Rilwan Hassan by Awal Mohammed and the Nigerian striker sent his header past the substitute goalkeeper Vikram Lakhbir Singh.
After getting into the lead, the Deccan Warriors shifted into game management mode and dominated the ball. However, four minutes later, they were left stunned as the ten men of Aizawl scored the equaliser. Substitute Ivan Veras received an inch-perfect cross from R Lalthanmawia inside the box before sending a looping header at the far post, beating the Sreenidi custodian Aryan Niraj Lamba, who was at full stretch.
In the final minutes of the game, the visitors threw everything at the Aizawl defence. Konsam Phalguni Singh came close to scoring with his header, however, it wasn't enough for the visitors as they left the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium with a single point. (ANI)