I-League: Givson Singh's late equaliser denies Punjab FC

Indian Arrows rescued a point thanks to Givson Singh's 93rd-minute equaliser against Punjab FC, which took the lead in the sixth minute of the match.

A slice of action from the match between Indian Arrows and Punjab FC on Tuesday. -Vivek Bendre   -  Vivek Bendre

Indian Arrows was lucky to get away with a 1-1 home draw against Punjab FC in the I-League on Tuesday. A penalty decision in the Arrows’ favour three minutes into added time at the Cooperage helped the AIFF Development squad force a draw against a superior opponent. The result was a setback for the latter’s hopes of closing the gap with Mohun Bagan, though it remains second with 23 points from 15 games.

M Givson Singh coolly converted the penalty kick, awarded by referee Pranjal Banerjee for an off-the-ball incident in the Punjab box. Defender Anwar Ali got a yellow for pushing Arrows’ youngster Manvir Singh. The main focus was on a curving floated ball from the right wing into the goalmouth, dealt with confidently by Punjab goalkeeper Kirankumar Limbu with a strong punch to clear the ball out of danger. To everyone’s surprise, the referee pointed to the penalty spot. The 93rd minute equaliser cancelled out a sixth minute goal by Sanju Pradhan off a free-kick.

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Punjab FC remained in control from the outset, took the lead early and concentrated on retaining possession for long spells. Coach Yan Law was livid at the penalty decision and referee’s interpretation of fouls against the Arrows, which he felt is not fair on professional teams in a seniors league. “It is time to stop treating the Arrows players as children. Each time they fall when pushed, the referee gives decision in their favour. It is time to treat them as equals competing in a league with professional teams.”

Punjab captain Pradhan, an experienced player on the circuit, floated the ball into the Arrows goalmouth off a free-kick. The ball eluded everyone, including onrushing goalkeeper Samik Mitra and lodged into the net, past a bunch of players from both sides. The visitor's ability to keep possession forced the Arrows to chase the ball all over from the kick-off and allowed the away side to control the flow of the game. Limbu under the Punjab bar displayed composure and reflexes to deal with threats, till the dramatic penalty decision.