New Delhi: ONGC's stunning form at home continued as they beat former champions Salgaocar by a solitary goal in a Round 16 I-League match at Ambedkar Stadium here on Saturday. Striker Fanai Lalmuanpuia scored the winner on the 48th minute, flicking in an accurate free kick by man-of-the-match Yusa Katsumi from the left.
Saturday's win was the third on the trot for ONGC after victories over Kolkata giants East Bengal and Pailan Arrows. It also stretched the oilmen's unbeaten run in the tournament to seven. Out of the nine home matches at Ambedkar Stadium, ONGC have won five times, drawn four times and lost only once -- against Air India. They have beaten Dempo 3-1, Shillong Lajong 3-0, Pailan Arrows 3-1 before defeating East Bengal and Salgaocar.
The oilmen, whose participation at next season's I-League remained doubtful due to non-fulfilment of AFC club licensing criteria, are now at the top half of the 14-team I-League standings with 19 points from 15 outings. After their long stint in Delhi, ONGC now leave for Mumbai and will play their game against Dempo on January 27.
With the loss on Saturday, Salgaocar remained stuck on 11 points from 14 matches and they are in the relegation zone now. Salgaocar's India custodian Karanjit Singh was to blame for ONGC's match-winning goal as he did not advance and fist the ball, allowing Lalmuanpia time and space to head in.
Yusa won his second successive man-of-the-match award but the real heroes for ONGC were their defenders. They have now not conceded a goal for 340 minutes. Coach Santosh Kashyap expressed happiness that his defence of Hassan Mohammed Adeola, skipper Sandeep Sangha and Waheed Mohammed Sali was now compact and is not making unforced errors. Since taking over about a month ago, Kashyap has transformed ONGC.
Salgaocar missed their Brazilian defender Luciano Sabrosa due to a hamstring injury. Their foreign coach David Booth felt that his team dominated possession but lacked a striker. Booth lamented that referee Vishnu Chauhan did not award his team a penalty kick in the 88th minute when ONGC's stopper Waheed handled the ball while trying to head it away.
Salgaocar, who dominated the second half, missed a sitter in the 71st minute. Striker Marcus Mascarenhas flicked wide from the edge of the six yard box, with an open goal in front of him, following substitute Royston D'Souza's cross.