Pune FC's bid to go atop the table failed as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Dempo SC in the 11th round of the Airtel I-League match played at Duler Stadium here on Wednesday.
After an unproductive first half, Dempo took the lead through Roberto Silva in the 47th minute. But the visitors equalised three minutes later through Mustapha Riga.
Pune FC took their point tally to 18 points from nine matches, the same as Salgaocar and Bengaluru FC, but has played one match less than them to remain on third position.
The first half was fought on even terms with neither team able to create clear chances. Knowing that a win today would take them at the top, Pune
FC started positively as they held the ball possession initially but could not penetrate deep inside the rival box which saw them create few chances.
Douhou Peirre tried to stitch few good moves along with Arata and Riga as they tried to test the rival keeper with long shots, but the defence stood well to block the shots.
The home team, who came on their own as the match progressed, made attacking moves, creating the first chance with Joy Ferrao who came in place of Jeje. Few minutes later, Roberto intercepted a pass in the midfield and released Holicharan Narzary who had Prabir Das on his right, but took a shot at goal which rival keeper Amrinder Singh parried away.
Roberto, who missed a scoring chance in the first half, opened the account for Dempo after the change of ends when he pounced on a loose ball after rival defence failed to clear the ball and shot home in the 47th minute. Stunned by the reverse, Pune FC retaliated and a Riga volley was blocked by defender Debabrata Roy.
However, Mustapha Riga found the equaliser in the 51st minute when he found the back of the net after Pierre neatly squared to him with Dempo's keeper Kattimani getting his hand but could not prevent the ball from going into the net.
The match became lively as Dempo made counter moves with Prabir Das working his way on the right and picking Roberto but the Brazilian's low diving header was blocked by Pune FC defender Ramu.
Dempo brought in fresh pair of legs to steer the attack and nearly took the lead in the 74th minute when a good exchange between substitute Gabriel Fernandes and Jewel Raja saw the latter put the ball in Alwyn George's path who only had to tap the ball into the net. But, George shot wide from a hand-shaking distance.
Pune FC keeper Arminder Singh then made a save when he tipped the ball away off Roberto who was set up by Gabriel. With the time ticking, Dempo made attempts to score but Roberto and Peter Carvalho failed to cash on the close chances.