Aizawl FC have failed to consolidate their position atop the I-League standings after blowing a two-goal advantage to share the spoils with Minerva Punjab after a 2-2 draw at the Guru Nanak stadium in Ludhiana on Saturday.
Mahmoud Al Amna (43') gave Aizawl the lead before half-time and it was stretched by Lalthakima (54') but Loveday (61') pulled one back for Minerva before a freekick from Kareem Nurain (81') ensured the home team a point.
The home team made four changes from the side that lost to Shillong Lajong. Kamalpreet Singh, Arashpreet Singh, Simranjeet Singh and Souvik Das got the hook while Deepak Devrani, Boaringdao Bodo, Lalrempuia and Moinuddin Khan came in.
The league leaders opted to make just the single change from the team that won in Pune - Lalthakima coming in for Eze Kingsley.
Surprisingly, it was the home team who started the game well with the first chance of the game falling to Nigerian striker Victor Amobi who saw a shot just flash past the post with Albino Gomes in Aizawl goal well beaten.
Immediately after, David Ngaihte glanced a header wide from Bodo’s cross as pressure mounted on the league leaders. In the 13th minute, Albino Gomes was called upon to make two crucial saves from a huge melee in the box as Aizawl held on.
There was no respite for Khalid Jamil’s side as Bodo saw a diving header from Ngaihte’s cross come off the post. But Aizawl would snatch the lead against the run of play in the 43rd minute when Bodo lost the ball in midfield and Aizawl countered. The ball was worked to Mahmoud Al Amna and the Syrian found the net with a stupendously timed shot.
Post the half-time break, the pattern of the game continued with Minerva trying hard to get an equaliser but Aizawl doubled their advantage in the 54th minute through Lalthakima who converted Jayesh Rane’s corner.
But, a fired up home side needed just eight minutes to pull a goal back through central defender Loveday Enyinnaya. The Nigerian got on the end of a freekick from Moinuddin and diverted the ball past Gomes to bring Minerva back into the game.
Aizawl, understandably, tried to sit back and protect their lead and Albino Gomes was called upon several times to make important interventions.
But it went to vain in the 81st minute when Minerva were awarded a freekick in a dangerous area. Up stepped Karee Nurain who swung a fantastic effort up over the wall and into the net. It was all Minerva post the equaliser but they could not force through a winner.
The point means Aizawl are now three points clear of East Bengal who play on Sunday while Minerva are still in eighth position.