An enthralling encounter at the Salt Lake Stadium was marred by missed chances from both teams as it ended in a stalemate which does neither side any favours...
Armando Colaco did not have Chidi Edeh available for selection while Uga Okpara recovered to find a place on the bench. Joaquim Abranches and James Moga started upfront with Arnab Mondal and Raju Gaikwad in the centre of defense.
Meanwhile for the Green and Maroons, Odafa Okolie missed out once again which meant Karim Bencherifa went ahead with CS Sabeeth in attack, supported by Christopher Chizoba. Katsumi Yusa started deeper in midfield alongside Denson Devadas.
The Mariners could have bagged the lead in the second minute itself when Katsumi strode forward after breaking in the centre of midfield before sliding in a brilliant ball for Sabeeth who made a hash of the chance by wasting too much time and taking the ball too wide. He did manage to square it for Pankaj Moula but his shot from the outside of his foot went wide of the far post.
Ram Malik who started on the right could have scored himself as he arrived late into the box and almost got on the end of a low cross from Aiborlang Khongjee.
As both teams tried to wrest control of the match from the other, it was Mohun Bagan who dictated the proceedings with East Bengal coming up second best by a distance. It was midway into the first half when Gurpreet Singh Sandhu pulled off a brilliant save to keep his team in the game.
Christopher Chizoba slid in a brilliant through ball for Sabeeth to chase down. His angled drive was saved brilliantly by a diving Gurpreet to keep the scores level.
In the next minute, the Red and Gold could have added to their opponents' misery as Ryuji Sueoka initiated the break before finding Moga with a good pass. However, Moga's heavy touch gave Shilton Paul enough time to come out and smother the ball before he could get a shot away.
Sabeeth's indecision cost Karim's men again as Chizoba slid another beautiful through ball for him only for the striker to pass it back instead of pulling the trigger, allowing Arnab Mondal to clear easily.
Shilton Paul then decided to hold on to a backpass giving East Bengal an indirect free-kick in the box. A comedy of errors ensued as the attacking side returned the favour with Khabra trying to casually leave it for Mehtab to strike, giving Katsumi enough time to steal the ball and go forward although he was eventually bundled over by Arnab Mondal.
Against the run of play, it was East Bengal who took the lead in the 39th minute. Abranches went down the left and put in a deligthful cross which eluded both Bagan defenders, leaving an unmarked Moga to head in with ease.
Sabeeth was played in yet again, about three minutes from half-time but it his indecision saw the opportunity spurned.
The second half started as an antithesis of the first as it was dominated by scrappy play from both sides but it was East Bengal who had the first viable chance on the hour mark. The goalscorer James Moga had initiated the break from the half-line, leaving it for Khabra who passed it back to him.
Moga's woeful first touch was matched by an equally poor clearance by Anyichie Echezona. The ball was almost dropped favourably for Moga but Mehtab Hossain was on hand to take it away from him in the nick of time.
In the 67th minute, Manish Bhargav's speculative shot from range down the right bounced in front of the keeper and was spilled by Sandhu who seemed to go from very good to absymal in a matter of minutes. The opportunity was grabbed by Sabeeth who made no mistake, tapping it into the open net.
In the 78th minute, Katsumi could have given Bagan the lead but his snapshot from the edge of the box was parried well by Gurpreet who tried to make amends for his folly.
Both teams had chances just as the match wound up. First it was Bagan who almost created an opening as Katsumi had run forward after attempting a one-two with Sabeeth who was closed down well. Then it was Armando's wards who wasted a glorious opportunity to put the game to bed as Moga was clean through courtesy of a Sueoka through ball but it was the combined effort of Echezona and Shilton that averted the danger.
The match was still not done as East Bengal had yet another chance spurned. This time, it was Sueoka who wasted the opportunity after a casual Echezona was robbed down the right by Abranches who sent in a terrific low cross which the Japanese shot over the frame before Shilton could get to it.
The stalemate did neither team any favours as both needed three points to further their ambitions in the league.
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