Paulo Menezes named an attacking starting XI deployed in a 4-2-3-1 formation with three changes from their last clash. Leonce Dodoz was handed a start in place of Yugo Kobayashi on the wings while William Lalnunfela was designated as the sole striker instead of the injured Davis Lalrinmuana. Hmingthanmawia came in for Shylo Mama as the third change.
Back to his old stomping ground, Khalid Jamil named three former Aizawl FC players in his starting XI in the form of Mahmoud Al Amna, Laldanmawia Ralte and Lalramchullova. The latter was the only change for the Kolkata giants from their last match as he came in for Mohammed Rafique. Justin Joby continued to lead the line for East Bengal as he was once again preferred ahead of Willis Plaza.
The home team started much the brighter of the two sides and they had a great chance in the fifth minute itself. Play-maker Andrei Ionescu delivered an inch-perfect free-kick towards the near-post where Masih Saighani failed to get a clean header. The ball deceived Luis Barreto but Lalramchullova was on hand to affect a goal-line clearance.
Albert Zohmingmawia teed up Alfred Jaryan at the edge of the box after some intricate footwork but the midfielder’s low shot was just wide of the mark. Albert then turned provider for Lalnunfela a couple of minutes later but the forward failed to sort out his feet quickly and shot wide.
The visitors came close in the 25th minute with Katsumi Yusa’s free-kick which was punched away by Avilash Paul. The resulting clearance fell to the feet of the Japanese again and his volleyed shot was tipped over the bar by the Aizawl custodian.
Another former Aizawl man was introduced by Jamil in the first period as Brandon Vanlalremdika replaced Prakash Sarkar. The home side came close to taking the lead in the 36th minute after a low and powerful shot by Jaryan but Barreto pulled off an excellent save diving to his right to prevent the danger.
The visitors’ defence came under increasing pressure towards the end of the first-half but came through unscathed as the score remained goalless at the interval.
East Bengal were forced into a change early into the second period as Arnab Mondal had to be taken off for Deepak Kumar after going with a hamstring.
After a stop-start second-half which saw some crunching tackles in midfield amidst a spate of bookings, it was the visitors who came close to snatching the lead in the 72nd minute after Al Amna squared up Brandon at the edge of box. The latter’s curled first-time shot was sneaking into the top right corner before Paul pulled off a great save to tip the ball over the bar.
Aizawl substitute Lalkhawpuimawia could have broken East Bengal hearts in the final 10 minutes but he could not get his head to Dinliana’s dangerous cross despite having the entire goal to his mercy.
Jamil threw on Plaza in the dying minutes as he searched for the sucker-punch but it remained a tale of two defences as both sets of attackers failed to find the winning goal.