Margao: Dempo Sports Club held on for a vital point against their main title challengers East Bengal, as a 0-0 draw in an I-League encounter at the Fatorda stadium saw the Goan team being crowned the I-League champions.
Dempo made two changes to their starting lineup, as Armando Colaco included Peter Carvalho in place of Densill Theobald who was ruled out due to a stomach upset, while Rowilson Rodrigues replaced the Mahesh Gawli who was only fit enough for a place on the bench.
Trevor Morgan started with a three man attack consisting of Tolgay Ozbey, Robin Singh and Edmilson Marques, with Uga Okpara being replaced by Raju Gaikwad in the defensive setup, for this must win clash.
The first attack by Dempo in the second minute saw Koko Sakibo release Peter Carvalho on the left whose shot just missed the far post, while on the other side, Tolgay Ozbey also missed the target after Mehtab Hussain had played a through ball to the former in the ninth minute.
Minutes later, East Bengal`s Aussie striker has another go at the Dempo goal but shot his second attempt of the evening straight into the hands of rival keeper Subashish Roychowdhury in the 12th minute.
Then in the 31st minute, Edmilson Marques stole the ball from Cresson Antao in the Dempo box but his well-placed shot, or so it looked, came off the post before Subashish Roychowdhury pounced on the loose ball.
Just before Vishnu Chauhan blew the first half whistle, the Gujarat based referee booked East Bengal striker Tolgay Ozbey for allegedly diving in the attempt to earn his side a penalty.
After the change of ends, in the 51st minute, out of the two chances that fell to the East Bengal strikers, Edmilson Marques failed to find the target as the Brazilian headed out with the goal gaping in front of him from a Mehtab Hussain corner kick.
After a string of changes were affected by Trevor Morgan, East Bengal substitute Sanju Pradhan almost scored from a long range effort towards the Dempo goal in the 67th minute.
On the other side, Ranti Martin`s free-kick came off the crossbar after he was brought down outside the box by East Bengal defender Gurwinder Singh.
Dempo`s Sakibo then was adjudged to have handled the ball while trying to control Martins` pass inside the box, but not before the former was guilty of taking too much time in the East Bengal box before the ball was cleared off his feet, and also missing another attempt around the 80th minute.
Dempo substitute Romeo Ferendes, who came in place of Sakibo, then got into the thick of the dying minutes` action, but his shot was deflected for a corner by East Bengal keeper Sandip Nandy.
Eventually the referee blew his whistle to bring the match and this season`s title race to an end, with Dempo sealing their fifth league title.
Goal.com/ Anselm Noronha