Aizawl held East Bengal to a 2-2 draw in their I-League season opener on Tuesday in Kolkata. Former Mohun Bagan players Katsumi Yusa and Eduardo Ferreira scored for the Red and Golds while William Lalnunfela scored a brace to guarantee the defending champions a point.
East Bengal coach Khalid Jamil fielded the team in a 4-2-3-1 formation with three debutantes in the starting XI. Defenders Mehtab Singh, Deepak K. and goalkeeper Mirshad K. made their I-League debuts for the Red and Golds.
Mohammed Rafique and Armand Bazzou were deployed as the central midfielders with Mahmoud Al Amna, Katsumi Yusa and Brandon Vanlalremdika upfront. Willis Plaza was designated the role of the lone striker while Salam Ranjan Singh partnered Eduardo Ferreira at the heart of the defense.
The defending champions took the field in a 4-4-2 shape with Japanese Striker Yugo Kobayashi partnering William Lalnunfela upfront. Leonce Dodoz operated on the flanks while skipper Alfred Jaryan played at the heart of midfield.
Aizawl FC enjoyed the lion’s share of possession throughout the first half as the home side were restricted to counter attacks. The first major chance came in the 7th minute as Willis Plaza met Mehtab Singh’s cross inside the 6-yard box. From a handshaking distance, the Trinidad and Tobago striker failed to find the back of the net.
Within seven minutes Plaza got yet another chance but his shot was comfortably saved by Aizawl custodian Avilash Paul.
Youngster Mehtab Singh was the weak link in East Bengal’s defence as he struggled against Aizawl’s Dodoz. The Ivory Coast winger exploited East Bengal’s right side and was a constant threat.
Plaza completed a hat-trick of misses in the 35th minute when his shot hit the woodwork. The strike'sr attempted shot from the edge of the box beat a diving Avilash but unfortunately did not go in.
Khalid Jamil made his first substitution in the 37th minute as Lalramchullova replaced Mehtab Singh at the right back position.
The home side started the second half on an attacking note. Amna moved to the right flank while Katsumi came to the number 10 position. The Red and Golds launched a series of attacks in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
Avilash Paul pulled off back-to-back saves at the hour mark to deny Willis Plaza from scoring a goal for the fifth and sixth times respectively in the match.
Just when it seemed that luck was not in favour of the Kolkata giants, former Mohun Bagan defender Eduardo Ferreira handed East Bengal the lead. Katsumi Yusa’s corner was deflected by Brandon and the Brazilian defender headed in at the far post.
Another former Mohun Bagan player Katsumi Yusa doubled East Bengal’s lead in the 72nd minute. Avilash was left wrong-footed from the initial shot taken by Rafique which took a wicket deflection off Katsumi and beat the hapless goalkeeper.
Aizawl pulled one back within two minutes of East Bengal’s goal when David curled a free-kick inside the box which was headed in by William Lalnunfela.
The away side found the equaliser in the 96th minute to break East Bengal's hearts. William Lanunfela scored his second goal of the night from a Lalthathanga Khawlhring corner with was was the last move of the match.