Salgaocar FC's title hopes ended when they were held to a 3-3 draw by Sporting clube de Goa in an exciting 24th round match in the I-League at Nehru Stadium, Fatorda in Margao on Tuesday.
Salgaocar, who were looking to keep themselves in the title hunt started well and were 2-0 up at the start of the match with Darryl Duffy (3rd) and Dudu Omagbemi (11th) finding the net.
But the Flaming Oranje did not lose heart and restored parity before half time through Kalu Ogba (20th) and Boima Karpeh (41st) and later took the lead after the break through Rowlin Borges (73rd). They were looking for a win before substitute Bikash Jairu blasted a left-footed volley to allow Salgaocar restore parity.
The draw takes Salgaocar's tally to 38 points from 23 matches and they are out of the I-League title race. Bengaluru who are leading the table with 41 points from 22 matches now face the only challenge from East Bengal for the title race who have 37 points from 21 matches.
Salgaocar, looking to close the gap at the top, took an early lead from a penalty kick after Darryl Duffy who was dangerously moving with the ball inside the box was tripped from behind by Sporting's defender Rogen Singh. Duffy who himself took the kick beat rival keeper Melroy Fernandes to his right with a deft placement in the third minute.
Eight minutes later, Salgaocar increased the lead. Freiman Peixoto initiated the move from the middle as he relayed the ball to Francis Fernandes on the right flank who sent a measured cross which Dudu Omagbemi sent in with a powerful header, giving keeper Melroy no chance to react.
Sporting Clube de Goa were hardly perturbed as they moved the ball well on both the flanks and held ball possession for quite sometime before they reduced the margin in the 20th minute when Kalu Ogba headed the ball off Rowlin Borges' cross from the right.
The goal acted as a tonic for Sporting who attacked relentlessly and found the equalizer in the 41st minute. After cross over, both the teams started the proceedings slowly with Sporting unlucky for not taking the lead when Boima Karpeh's shot hit the cross bar in the 52th minute.
Sporting then held more of the ball possession but could not penetrate inside the rival box. On the other hand, Salgaocar played a waiting game and came with swift counter moves with Dudu on three occasions having the chance to strike and rival keeper Melroy doing well to put the ball out of danger.
Sporting, who survived close shaves, came with a counter move and took the lead in the 73rd minute when Rowlin Borges blasted home from close range off a perfect pass from Velito Cruz. With the match slipping away from Salgaocar's hands it was substitute Bikash Jairu who drew level before the stoppage time when he blasted a left footed volley to find the back of the net off Mathew Foschini's pass.