Jamshedpur: Sergio Castel's fine form in front of goal was not enough for Jamshedpur FC as NorthEast United fought back late for a pulsating 1-1 draw at the JRD Tata Sports Complex here on Monday.
The hosts were the dominant side in this Indian Super League encounter and Spanish striker Sergio Castel's fifth goal of the season in the 28th-minute seemed to have given all three points for Antonio Iriondo's men. But a 90th-minute equaliser from Panagiotis Triadis ensured NorthEast United's unbeaten record remained intact.
The result sees Jamshedpur second on the table, level on points (11) with ATK at the top while NorthEast are now fourth with 10 points to their name.
Jamshedpur started on the front foot and looked dangerous going forward. Six minutes into the game, Noe Acosta dribbled to the byline on the left flank and chipped the ball to the centre of the box for Farukh Choudhary whose acrobatic overhead kick flew just over the bar.
The NorthEast defence struggled to contain a clever Jamshedpur forward line, led by Castel. The Atletico Madrid loanee finished off a wonderful team move close to the half an hour mark to give the home team the lead. Aitor Monroy's splendid pass into the box found Farukh who squared the ball to Castel. The striker chested it down before sending the ball into the net.
Minutes later, Memo Moura's drilled effort found an unmarked Castel in the box but this time, the striker shot wide from close-range, much to the relief of the visitors who struggled throughout the first 45 minutes.
In a bid to get back into the game, the visitors turned aggressive in their approach after restart and gave away fouls in their own half. Jamshedpur enforced a free-kick routine from the training pitch in one such set-piece opportunity, but Narender Gehlot, who sneaked in behind the defence to get to Acosta's delivery, headed onto the roof of the net.
NorthEast showed signs of a comeback as the half wore on and Triadis and Gyan saw more of the ball. The winger fed the Ghanaian through on goal twice in quick succession, but the forward was unable to convert.
Gyan threatened again after the hour-mark, bearing down on goal after a quick counter-attack, but failed to skip past Memo who stuck out his leg to nick the ball off the striker before he could get a shot away.
The Jamshedpur midfield, consisting of Jitendra Singh and Monroy, kept the ball well and frustrated their opponents.
But yet again, there was twist at the death as NorthEast came up with an equaliser against the run of play in the 90th minute. Gyan flicked a long ball into the path of Triadis who attacked the space left unattended by Gurung and Memo to flick a finish past Subrata Paul to ensure the Highlanders had a share of the spoils.