Air-India's patented try this, try that tactics to unsettle the opposition clicked again on Saturday as they managed to beat a superior Chirag United by a solitary goal in a fourth round I-League match at the Cooperage in Mumbai.
The all-important strike came from the boots of medio Surojit Roy from another patented long throw in by Uttam Singh from the right flank in the 71st minute. Substitute goalkeeper Arindam Ghosh, who had replaced an injured Robikanta Singh Congtham in the 71st minute, missed the flight of the ball which landed at the feet of Roy in front of an untenanted goal and he gleefully tapped it in.
Even United's towering African stoppers failed to intercept the ariel ball leaving coach Subrata Bhattacherjee, himself the classiest of defender in his prime, rueing the quality of his imports. This is Roy's third goal in the tournament.
The undefeated airmen now soar to third spot with eight points (2 wins, 2 draws) while the Kolkata outfit slide down to seventh place with four points from their second defeat.
United began brightly and established their ascendancy with veterans Basudeb Mondal and Hardeep Singh revving up things from the midfield. But clear chances did not come their way as the Air-India defence held firm. But one United counter from a rival corner involving Muritala Ali, Soumik Chakraborty and Hardeep in added time in the first half, almost resulted in a goal. However, custodian Arup Debnath, who had another good match, came to the rescue with a fine save, deflecting the Sardar's shot for a corner.
The locals, who seem to reserve their best against the fancier teams, took off only in the second half when Samson Singh was introduced after lemon time. Earlier, striker Emmanuel Ovieghara had the ball in the net in the 33rd minute after Robikanta clashed with his defender and the ball lay invitingly on a platter. But referee A Rowan surprisingly disallowed the Air-India goal, ruling that a foul had been committed.
The match ended in a flurry of bookings -- seven in all -- as the Services official struggled to keep tempers in check. United even appealed vainly for a late penalty in the dying minutes claiming that an Air-India defender had handled the ball in the box, though that may have been quite opportunistic.
Try manly as they did, United failed to shoot down Air-India's young defence marshalled resolutely by Nigerian stopper and man of the match Chukwuma Udofia. He will however miss the next match against Dempo in Goa after collecting his second yellow.