After winning six consecutive matches in the Calcutta Football League, Khalid Jamil's East Bengal finally fumbled in the seventh round against Mohammedan Sporting on Saturday. A 2-2 draw against the Black Panthers has left the league wide open as both the Red and Golds and Mohun Bagan are now tied on 19 points.
Mahmoud Al Amna's brilliant strike gave East Bengal the lead as early as in the second minute of the match. Mohammed Rafique's curling free-kick was headed down by Arnab Mondal inside the Mohammedan penalty box and the Syrian midfielder chest trapped the ball before finding the back of the net with an excellent volley.
The Red and Golds meant business from the very beginning of the match and got the early goal as a reward for their attacking display. Mohammedan on the other hand struggled to create chances in the attacking third and looked clueless against their opponents.
But Biswajit Bhattacharya's men got the equaliser against the run of play in the 20th minute. Dipendu Dowary played a lovely ball for Kalu Ogba on the right side who quickly directed it towards an unmarked Jiten Murmu with his outstep. Taking advantage of a lazy East Bengal defence, Murmu made no mistake in finding the back of the net.
Khalid Jamil made two quick changes in the second-half introducing Gabriel Fernandes and Surabuddin Mullick in place of Joby Justin and Laldanmawia Ralte.
East Bengal dominated the proceedings in the second-period too but failed to score the crucial second goal. A total of three genuine chances were all squandered as the ball rebounded off the post on all three occasions.
Once again against the run of play Dipanda Dicka handed Mohammedan the lead from Jiten Murmu’s cross as the vulnerability in East Bengal’s backline was exposed.
A desperate Jamil brought in Cavin Lobo in the 80th minute. Lobo’s introduction in the match proved to be a masterstroke as from the midfielder's pass Willis Plaza equalised just three minutes before the 90-minute mark.
Lobo created space brilliantly for Plaza on the right side of the penalty box and the Trinidadian forward launched a scintillating shot to find the back of the net.
Both East Bengal and Mohun now have the same amount of points with two games left. A win for both sides in their next encounters would imply that the Kolkata derby on September 24 becomes the title decider.
The draw against Mohammedan exposed several loopholes in Khalid Jamil’s side. The defence is yet to combine properly and are getting exposed quite easily in every match. Also, the team lacks a proper defensive midfielder which is affecting side on counter-attacks.