NEW DELHI: After showing only promises in their last couple of games, ONGC caused the season’s biggest upset as they brought defending champions Dempo down to earth with a 3-1 win in a sixth round I-League match on Friday.
Sorabuddin Mollick (12th), Jatin Bisht (58th) and Eric Brown (90+4) scored for the winners while Peter Carvalho struck the consolation goal for Dempo.
ONGC showed intent from the beginning, proof of which was the early strike, which, at the same time, also highlighted Dempo goalkeeper Subhasish Roy Chowdhury’s poor work at the post.
Mollick put the well-organised hosts ahead when he scored off a rebound after Kailash Patil’s attempt off Brown pass found Chowdhury.
Dempo fluffed a few chances in the period post the early goal, and there were also a couple of opportunities for the home side.
Dempo’s hopes of a fightback went up in smoke after Bisht fired in a rasping volley from just outside the box, his class act giving ONGC a 2-0 lead moments from the start of second half.
After a none-too-impressive outing in the midfield, Carvalho brought the margin down and gave Dempo a glimmer of hope when he tapped in Clifford Miranda’s free-kick at the Ambedkar Stadium.
The match was sealed beyond issue when Brown found the net seconds before the final whistle, to give his side its first win of the league.
The key to ONGC’s success was the domination in the midfield. Dempo prefer to play a free-flowing game but ONGC’s tight marking meant none of the Dempo players got enough space in the middle.
Man-of-the-Match Robin Gurung also deserves special mention for without his strong presence at the back, ONGC could have found it difficult.
Dempo’s Japanese striker Ryuji Seoka showed spirit but not opportunism, and he also lacked a dangerous striking partner.
ONGC have five points from six matches while Dempo remained on 13 from as many games.
In the closing stages of the game, Dempo used the long ball and crosses from both flanks effectively and put ONGC on the back foot.
However, resolute defending from Gurung and Co helped ONGC counter Dempo’s attacks towards the end.
ONGC’s coach Subrata Bhattacharya (Jr) played a tactical game to outwit Dempo, which missed strikers Koko Sakibo, Joaquim Abranches and central defender Mahesh Gawli due to injuries.
Early in the second half, ONGC missed a sitter. Yusa Katsumi, after being put through by Brown, shot wide from close.
Bhattacharya had no doubt that it was in the midfield that they won the match.
“My main focus is always on the midfield, they were great in marking and didn’t allow Dempo to play their passing game. Robin Gurung also played a stellar role in defence,” Bhattacharya said.
His counterpart Armando Colaco credited the opponents. “I give credit to them. But it happens. It is just the 6th round and my boys have always showed strong character,” Colaco said.
ONGC next play East Bengal away in Kolkata on November 24. In Delhi, they will meet Sporting Clube de Goa on December 8.
Dempo’s next four matches are in Goa and first up will be Air India.