A high intense Group C encounter between hosts Fateh Hyderabad AFC and Bengaluru outfit Ozone FC of the I-League second division ended in a goalless draw at the Gachibowli Stadium on Sunday.
Fateh, who faced their biggest challenge against a stronger Ozone side, held on to their nerves as they managed to script out a draw in spite of playing with ten men after defender Ponif Vaz was shown the red card.
With the draw, Fateh are placed second with five points and are still in the run for qualification into second round. But the Hyderabad team lost the top spot to Kenkre FC (7 points) who defeated Jabalpur side Pride Sports on Saturday.
Ozone which came into the game with a home win against Pride Sports showed no glimpses of form as they were outperformed by the inexperienced Fateh in the first half of the encounter.
Fateh once again proved that they have the most formidable defensive line-up as the back-four once again kept the opposition at bay without conceding any goals.
Under-22 midfielder Rinreithan Shaiza of Fateh set the handful of crowd, who came to support their side cheering when his powerful long-ranger from outside the box whizzed past the woodwork in the early minutes of the game.
Ozone defence had a hard time tackling Fateh’s midfield duo of Portuguese winger Luis Carlos Nogueira Santos and attacking midfielder Nima Tamang from Sikkim. The diminutive Nima known for his creative passes though was not at his best form but Luis who missed the first match due to injury displayed excellent skill and technique to puzzle the Ozone defence.
Ozone made their first substitution by bringing in seasoned campaigner Kerala-man Sabeeth Sathyan (30th min) in place of Vignesh Gunashekar in the attack.
Fateh’s midfield looked more compact and composed unlike their previous encounters and fared better than their Bengaluru counterparts. But the city outfit still lacked the killing instinct as they failed to create chances and could not find any openings.
New signing and forward Roby Alberto Norales Nunez of Honduras who came to Ozone from I-League first division side Bengaluru FC recently, was soon replaced after halftime, by under-22 player Akshay Kumar Dospati as he failed to exhibit a decent show.
Fateh’s worst fears came true when they lost left wing back Ponif Vaz. He was shown the exit door for a rash and untimely tackle on midfielder and Ozone’s star player Anto Xavier.
Englishman Adam MItter Thomas joined the defensive setup playing centre back along with skipper Gurtej Singh after Vaz’s red card to carry the forward. His towering presence at the back restricted many a chances created by Ozone in the second session of the game.
With ten-men Fateh had to change their game plan and fell back on the defence. Ozone’s best chance came in the 75th minute of the game when Anto tried for grinding left footer which just flew across the left post keeping alive Fateh’s hopes.
(Credit: Telangana Today – Siddharth Suresh)