Visitors Dempo Sports Club came from behind to defeat hosts Air India 3-1 and regain their position on top of the points table in the ninth round I-league match at the Cooperage ground in Mumbai on Saturday.
The hosts went ahead courtesy N D Opara in the 16th minute, but the visitors equalised three minutes later through Climax Lawrence, before Sunil Chettri (36th) and substitute Jaoquim Abranches (80th) put the match beyond the airmen's control.
With this win, Dempo have 18 points from nine matches, while the hosts face the possibility of being relegated having accumulated just five points from their eight matches.
Earlier, Air India began the match on a positive note and had an opportunity to take the lead as early as the third minute but Md Dada Nabeel, standing inside the box, failed to connect to a well set-up cross from the left by Opara.
They made amends soon as Yusuf Ibrahim Tijani headed a throw-in by Uttam Singh towards Opara, who guided the ball past the rival goal-keeper Laxmikant Kattimani.
However, the hosts' domination ended here as the visitors took control from here on.
Air India custodian Kunal Sawant tried his best to tackle a four-pronged attack from Chhetri, Lawrence, Ranty Martins, and Peter Carvalho and managed to keep them at bay twice, before Lawrence finally got it past him to restore parity.
Dempo went into an aggressive mode after Lawrence's equaliser and it was only a matter of time before they dictated terms.
A Chettri header from inside the box off a cross from the corner by Clifford Miranda meant that the visitors went into the half-time leading 2-1.
Desperate for a goal, Air India brought in S Henry Gangte for Tapan Maity, Kailash Patil for Nabeel, and K Samson Singh for Uttam Singh but to no avail.
However, the visitors move to bring in Abranches for Martins paid off almost instantly as eight minutes after coming on the field Abranches made full use of a pass from the right from Anthony Pereira and sealed the fate for the airmen.
Chirag upset East Bengal
Kolkata: Federation Cup champions East Bengal's today suffered a 0-1 drubbing at the hands of Chirag United in a ninth round encounter of the I-League at Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata.
With the win, Chirag United now have 18 points and share a joint lead with Dempo in the league standing, but the Goans are on top on basis of a goal difference.
Dumped by East Bengal following an altercation with former coach Subhas Bhowmick and teammates, Brazilian Edmilson Marques scored the solitary goal with a venegeance to help Chirag United garner full three points.
Both the Kolkata oufits fought hard but a foul by red and yellow brigade's Abhra Mondal in the 66th minute handed the win to Chirag United who converted the penalty through their Brazilian recruit.
India captain Bhaichung Bhutia, who is recovering from an injury, was brought in after the goal but the senior most pro could not do much as the fancied team lost their third I-League match in the ongoing season.
On hindsight, East Bengal must be ruing after missing a sitter when their Ghanaian striker Abel Hammond's shot hit the post.
The duo of Subhas Singh and Hammond, who paired up in absence of Bhutia, could have given East Bengal an early lead in the second minute but the day clearly did not belong to the city giants. A neat pass from Subhas Singh from the left was wasted by Hammond in what appeared an easy chance.
Abhra impressed under the bar thwarting Chirag United's persistent efforts as both the teams remained goalless in the half-time.
Fresh from his splendid run during the Federation Cup in Guwahati recently, Abhra did not concede any goal and particularly sparkled when he dived to save an Edmilson freekick in the first-half.
When it seemed the match would end without any goal, a foul by Abhra who brought down Edmilson inside the box proved costly for East Bengal and referee Rizwan-ul Haque directed at the spot.
Edmilson, who was sacked from East Bengal on disclipinary grounds, converted the penalty with a clinical placement that was beyond Abhra's reach.
East Bengal's Belgian coach replaced Hammond with Bhutia but it did not yield any result as despite an inexperienced defence, Subrata Bhattacharya's boys held on to the 1-0 scoreline.
In what appeared a dubious decision, the referee ruled out a penalty in favour of East Bengal when Arnab Mondal brought down Syed Rahim Nabi inside the box in the 83rd minute.