With every passing match, Mahindra United's title chances seem to be ebbing away. And when the Mumbai outfit runs on flat tyres, nothing can rescue them, not even a change in engine or chasis.
For the first time, on Wednesday, the local outfit had Senegalese stopper back Lamine Tamba on the field. But while he helped them to maintain a clean slate, his cohorts at the other end, the frontline, could not get onto the score sheet and Mahindra had to settle for only a point with surprise table-toppers Sporting Clube de Goa, in a ninth round I-League match at the Cooperage which ended goalless.
This was the first draw for the 'Flaming Orange' who remain at the summit with 19 points while the 'Red Devils' continue to languish in tenth position with nine points.
Derrick Perreira's woes continued as the former NFL champions blew some gilt-edged chances in the second-half, when the visitors went on the defensive. Douhou Pierre, Sushil Kumar Singh and N P Pradeep all failed to find the target. Sporting goalkeeper Felix D'Souza, who picked a yellow for a handball outside the box, came to his side's rescue twice with timely saves.
He was one of the contenders for the man of the match award, which ultimately went to medio Harmanjot Khabra, but midfielder Bibiano Fernandes and Brazilian Luciano Sabrosa, who played the perfect spoiler in front of the defence and neutralized the threat of Chidi Edeh, all played their part in Sporting's renaissance in the first session.
In fact, had Vishwas Gaonkar's starless side taken their chances, Sporting could have trooped out victors given Mahindra's propensity to spurn chances for the rest of the game.
Elijah Jr had two golden chances to put the Goans ahead but he first headed Remus Gomes's cross over the bar from point blank range in the 43rd minute. Then, just before the change over, he essayed a stinging volley off a backpass from Amos Nathaniel but Subhasish Roy Choudhury fisted it away for a corner.