Star striker Odafa Okolie failed to make an impact as Mohun Bagan were held to a goal-less draw by ONGC in a dull Round Five match of the I-League here today.
Odafa, who seemed to have regained his scoring touch with a hat-trick in Bagan's 3-1 win over Sporting Clube-de-Goa in their previous outing, was closely marked by two ONGC central defenders, Robin Gurung and Hassan Mohammad Adeola, who was later adjudged man-of-the-match.
The Nigerian was denied the space and he did not also show his usual sharpness as he failed to convert a couple of chances that came his way.
With two consecutive wins after back-to-back defeats, the Kolkata giants were looking for three full points against ONGC but the small die-hard Mohun Bagan crowd, who cheered Odafa when he entered the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, returned disappointed.
India player, Syed Rahim Nabi was also subdued throughout the match and he wasted Mohun Bagan's best chance early in the second session.
Mohun Bagan assistant coach Mridul Banerjee, however, defended his players and said that there would not be any break in the momentum.
"I don't think that the draw will break our momentum.
They tried their best and it happens in football. Today, we got too many chances but could not convert," he said at the post-match press conference.
ONGC, on the other hand, played to a plan of not allowing Odafa to dictate terms.
"All the plans we chalked out almost were through except that we could not score. Our plan was to block Odafa mainly and then Rahim Nabi also. We did that exactly," he said.
"In any match, getting two or three changes were enough and we got them. But we could not score. So I am happy with the result but I am not satisfied. We could have got full three points," he added.
With the draw today, Mohun Bagan are now with seven points from five matches while ONGC are with two points from five matches.
ONGC were bolstered by the return of central defender Anil Gurung and striker Eric Brown and the initial period of the match belonged to them. Brown combined well with Japanese recruit Yusa Katsumi and the duo kept the Bagan defence on their toes.
The ninth minute of the match saw Katsumi almost getting the better of Mohun Bagan goalkeeper Shilton Paul in a contest for who gets the ball first after Jatin Singh Bisht sent a fine floater from the right. Paul could just barely put his hands onto the ball to deflect it to safety.
Bisht, himself, made a fine long-range effort in the 17th minute but the ball sailed a few inches over the bar.
Playing 4-1-4-1 formation initially with Odafa upfront, Bagan got back to their rhythm around midway into the opening session. Jewel Raja shot straight into ONGC custodian Prosenjit Ghosh in the 26th minute.
Two minutes later, Odafa's free kick from the edge of the box went narrowly wide. In the 33rd minute, Snehashish Chakraborty sent a fine cross from the left but Devdas Denson shot tamely into the goalkeeper.
Mohun Bagan's best scoring chance came in the 53rd minute but Nabi wasted it. Snehashish's defence splitting cross was headed wide by Nabi with only an out-of-position goalkeeper in front of him.
Later in the second half, Bagan reverted to a more attacking 4-4-2 formation with the introduction of C S Sabeeth in place of midfielder Stanely Okoroigwi in the 70th minute.
In the 86th minute, Sabeeth headed wide an inviting cross from an overlapping left back Biswajit Saha.
The home side also bolstered their attack with striker Kailash Patil coming in for Gurung in the 57th minute. Patil had two fine efforts.
In the 68th minute he headed straight to Bagan goalkeeper from a close range and two minutes later, he failed to finish from a move initiated by Brown. Bagan goalkeeper had to dive to his left to block a Patil drive from just outside the box.