Trevor Morgan's side are now one point behind Churchill, who also have two games in hand, as the Red and Gold failed to close out the tie against Air India...East Bengal lost the chance to regain top spot in the I-League, as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Air India, in an I-League game held at the Kalyani Stadium in Kolkata.
Chidi Edeh had given the hosts a lead in the 60th minute, which they seemed set to hold on to, for the rest of the half, before Ezeh Henry popped up with the equalizer in the 91st minute.
The Red and Gold started with Chidi Edeh and Andrew Barisic upfront, with Penn Orji behind them. This meant that Uga Okpara had to be content witha place on the bench.
Naushad Moosa meanwhile left Ezeh Henry on the bench, with E.O Junior starting upfront, supported by Prakash Thorat and Souvik Chakrabarty.
Both sides started out on either ends of the league table with the Red & Gold outfit in 2nd position and Air India in a meek 3rd from bottom.
The game was being played out at the Kalyani Stadium with East Bengal's customary home venue, the Salt Lake Stadium not hosting the game given the recent news of the latter hosting this year's IPL opening ceremony.
The visitors were touted to start out low on morale given, they won't be contesting in the I-League next campaign. But it was not to be the case as the Airmen started out the brighter of the two sides in the first 10 minutes of the game.
Junior Obagbemiro was central to all their good work in that period, spreading play well. Yet they were defensively suspect; giving the ball away cheaply on many occasions. In the 4th minute, Air India's defence gave it away to East Bengal's Lalthlamuana Robert who blasted it wide from range, when he actually had more time on the ball. East Bengal's wasteful trend continued as they just could not make the most of the chances afforded to them.
Chidi Edeh had the best opportunity of the first half, as he took a powerful shot on 22 minutes from the edge of the box. Air India keeper Sukhwinder Singh did well to parry it away for a corner. Both teams got a lot of joy on the flanks with both teams' wingers running well at their counterparts. M. Pradeep was guilty of dithering when clean through on goal in the 37th minute. He was allowed to run clear but was caught up in the end by the home side's right back, who put in a last ditch tackle to avoid an attempt on goal.
The game did look open on quite a few occasions, before the referee blew for half time with both teams going in goalless at the break.
At the start ofthe second half, L. Ralte had a great chance to open the scoring, as he was clean through on goal. However the keeper came out well to deny the midfielder.
Chidi Edeh then missed two chances himself, as his first shot went over the bar, while his second attempt was smothered by the goalkeeper.
In the 60th minute though, the striker made no mistake, as he got to the end of a Barisic cross, and tapped the ball home.
Pradeep though, should have equalised in the 65th minute itself, when Junior's shot was parried into his path by Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. However the winger shot wide from close range.
Trevor Morgan looked to see off the rest of the game, as he bought in Uga Okpara to shore up the backline.
Ralte then had a chance to put the game to bed in the 88th minute, when he had the entire goal to aim for, after being set-up by Penn Orji. However the midfielder failed to capitalize.
The hosts were made to pay for his profligacy, as in the 91st minute, Uga Okpara failed to clear a regulation ball, and Henry Ezeh punced on the mistake and slotted the ball past Gurpreet. The ball hit the inside of the post and went in, sparking wild celebrations amongst the Airmen.
That proved to be the last bit of action in the game, as he referee blew the full-time whistle. The result means East Bengal are now one point behind Churchill Brothers in the title race, though the Goans have two games in hand.
Air India meanwhile moved to 19 points, tied with Shillong Lajong and Pailan Arrows.
How do you stay up with football when on the move? With http://m.goal.com –your best source for mobile coverage of the beautiful game.