Bhubaneswar: Debutante Real Kashmir on Sunday continued their unbeaten run with a 2-2 draw against Indian Arrows to leave the I-League title race tantalisingly poised.
After 75 minutes of goalless football, suddenly the match sprung into life as four goals were scored in the final 15 minutes of regulation time at the Kalinga Stadium.
Indian Arrow’s Amarjit Singh (78th minute) found the target from the penalty spot before Kofi Tetteh (82nd) restored the parity for Real Kashmir from a well-taken corner by Vicky Meitei.
Mason Robertson (90th), who was lurking in for long, then earned the lead for the visitors only to lose it within 60 seconds when Rahul KP headed an Anwar Ali corner home.
Following the result, Real Kashmir FC took the second spot on the table with 33 points from 17 matches, while Indian Arrows reclaim the seventh spot with 18 points from 19 matches.
The Srinagar-based team is still four points away from table-toppers Chennai City (37) with just one match to go. Real Kashmir FC now faces East Bengal at home in their last outing.
Chennai, on the other hand, still have two matches to play – one against Mohun Bagan and other against Churchill Brothers.
Real Kashmir will hope to receive full points from their match against defending champion Minerva Punjab, who had pulled out citing security concerns following the Pulwama terror attack which left 40 CRPF jawans dead.
Minerva had asked AIFF to postpone the game which the governing body refused, prompting the team to approach the High Court. AIFF has referred the matter to its I-League Committee and a decision on it is pending.
In the match, Arrows coach Floyd Pinto made as many as seven changes from their last game against Gokulam Kerala FC handing Boris, Narender, Suresh, Ninthoi, Akash and Rohit Danu another start in the ongoing I-League.
Moreover, he opted to bring Lovepreet Singh replacing Prabhsukhan Gill under the woodwork.
On the other hand, Real Kashmir coach David Robertson didn’t feel to tweak his strategies having fielded the same starting eleven.
The yellow outfit could have taken an early lead in the 19th minute through Danish Farooq but the 22-year-old attacker blew it over the crossbar.
Four minutes later, the visitors came very close to opening the scoreline once again from Surchandra’s corner. The corner landed deep in the penalty box and it was laid off to Bazie whose feeble touch was cleared off by Lovepreet comfortably.
Mason, the usual centre-back, was deployed a bit up by the gaffer in their quest to breach the Arrows defence and he outran Sanjiv in the left flank only to see his effort hit the side-netting.
After the half-hour mark, Arrows started to show some urgency but the lack of penetration failed the youngsters till the end.
Rohit Danu turned and collected the ball inside the box following a melee but his toe-poke sailed over the woodwork in the 39th minute.
Two minutes later, Amarjit put in another delicious pass to Rohit but he miscued the opportunity to let the chance go.
Amarjit continued to dictate the midfield and rolled a dangerous delivery directed to Boris inside the Real Kashmir penalty box but the lanky goalie Bilal Khan valiantly jumped on his feet to avert the danger.
Arrows could have witnessed a splendid goal when Ninthoi hoodwinked it over Mason to rush into the 18-yard-box but eventually, squandered the opportunity.
Rahim Ali won a penalty in the 75th minute when his powerful effort from outside the box hit Ravanan’s hand and the referee didn’t hesitate to award the youngsters a spot-kick.
Skipper Amarjit slotted it calmly past Bilal Khan to send the Arrows dugout into a delirium.
The Srinagar-based outfit changed the gear immediately and finally, they got the elusive goal in the 82nd minute.
Vicky Meitei’s corner dipped near the goal and Abednedo Tetteh, who replaced Krizo, leapt high to find the back of the neck.
After netting the equaliser, David Robertson instilled more legs inside the opponent box to net the winner and none but his son stunned the Arrows minutes later.
Vicky Meitei, the craftsman of the first goal, floated a long ball from the wing to Katebe. After the defender mistimed it, Mason volleyed it home to take the lead.
Their joy was cut short by super-sub Rahul KP who did no mistake to score from a copybook header goal from Anwar Ali’s well-taken free-kick in the first minute of the added time to leave the ground with a point from their final home fixture of season.
Indian Arrows will clash with Mohun Bagan on February 28.