West Ham United U19s battled back to draw 1-1 against ATK Mohun Bagan FC in a frustrating opening match in the Premier League Next Generation Cup.
Suhail Ahmad Bhat scored early on for the home side after a long ball caught out the West Ham back line and the forward slotted beyond Mason Terry.
And just as it looked as though a frustrated Hammers side would fail to get back into the game, substitute Favour Fawumni popped up with the leveller on 68 minutes to set up an interesting final eight minutes.
But Lauris Coggin’s team couldn’t find a second goal and had to settle for a point in their opening fixture.
With temperatures well into the mid 30’s at Reliance Corporate Park Sports Stadium, the Hammers started in a controlled manner, working the play around the back as they looked to make the ball do the work in the sweltering conditions.
On eight minutes, the side in Claret & Blue created their first chance. A long searching ball from the back set Liam Jones scampering, with the flying wide player winning the ball from his opponent, cutting inside and firing just past the right-hand post.
But a minute later, the Mariners opened the scoring against the run of play. Bhat beat the offside trap as the Indian side played long, wand the forward mode no mistake, slotting beyond Terry from inside the 18-yard-box.
The Irons upped the intensity immediately, with George Earthy looking to strike back, but his shot from the edge of the shot was well blocked by Raj Basfore.
ATK looked to disrupt the rhythm of Coggin’s side at every opportunity as they dangled their feet in at every challenge, prompting frequent appeals from his players for free-kicks.
Blaise Uwandji threatened just after the scheduled water break as he quickly turned away from the Mariners back line and fired a shot into the side netting from an acute angle.
Clever play around the area from the forward set up and opportunity for Earthy to strike from a free-kick, but he couldn’t keep the effort down and it flew over.
The native outfit had been without any meaningful possession for some time, but did create a good opportunity through - Leimapokpam Sibajit Singh had a pop from distance, but his strike flew harmlessly over.
In the last action of the first 35 minutes, Jones’ wicked delivery was almost poked home by Lewis Orford at the back post, but ATK were able to clear.
At the break, coach Coggin elected to make a triple change, with Olli Scarles, Fawunmi and Ryan Battram all entering the fray.
Scarles almost had an instant impact as he looked to covert from a free-kick, but he couldn’t keep the effort down and it went over the crossbar.
Next, another free kick caused chaos in the ATK penalty area and Jamal Baptiste looked to have been hauled to the floor illegally, but referee 'Aditya' waved away the protests. From the second phase, the Hammers almost levelled, but a scramble resulting in Baptiste blazing over from inside the area.
The Irons kept probing, and Earthy must have thought he’d unlocked the ATK defence when he delivered a delightful cross, but neither Fawumni or Jones arriving in the area could make contact.
An opportunity to vanquish all of the frustration came when Jones was pulled back in the penalty area, offering the opportunity for Lewis Orford to dispatch from the spot on 50 minutes. The midfielder stepped up and saw his effort saved by ATK ‘keeper Arsh.
The Indian Premier League side continued to frustrate, frequently going down and using tactics that slowed the game down. And just as it looked as though Coggin’s teams wouldn’t find back into the game, they unlocked the door.
Earthy drove down the left and produced another teasing ball that found Fawumni, and the substitute finished first time from close range to bring the game level on 62 minutes.
They went in search of the winner, with Gideon Kudoa and Earthy continue to cause issue on the left. As they worked the ball inside, Scarles let fly from the edge of the box with his weaker right foot, but it didn’t test Arsh.
More great play followed out wide, this time with Regan Clayton delivering a sumptuous ball to the back post, which the outstretched Fawumni couldn’t direct goalwards.
Dan Rigge looked to have won it late on as Arsh couldn’t keep his effort from spilling behind him, however, the referee adjudged the goalkeeper to have recovered and kept the ball from crossing the line.
That chance proved to be the last of the contest, as the Hammers had to settle for a point in their opening fixture.
West Ham United U19s: Terry, Tarima (Battrum 36), Baptiste, Casey, Clayton, Jones (Riggs 59) Woods (Fawunmi 36), Orford, Kodua (C), Earthy, Uwandji (Scarles 46)
Unused subs: Akpata, Briggs.
Goal: Fawunmi 62