I-League 2018-19: Lalrindika Ralte stunner rescues a point for East Bengal
I-League media
A stunning free-kick by Lalrinidika Ralte helped East Bengal equalise in the second half...

East Bengal were handed a jolt in the I-League title race as they drew 1-1 against Churchill Brothers on Sunday at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata.

The Kolkata-based club could have matched league leader Chennai City's tally of 34 points with a win but a point sees them climb to the second spot, two points below the toppers.

Petr Gigiu made four changes in the Churchill Brothers starting XI which drew 1-1 against Mohun Bagan in their last match. Dawda Ceesay, Richard Costa, Cavin Lobo and Hussein Eldor were replaced by Rowilson Rodriguez, Nicholas Fernandes, Anthony Wolfe and Christ Remi

East Bengal coach Alejandro Menendez fielded an unchanged XI after defeating Lajong 5-0 in their last match on Thursday.

The Red and Golds failed to replicate the intensity they showed against Shillong Lajong at the beginning of the game. They took a safety-first approach and focused more on counter attacks.

Chesterpaul Lyngdoh got an opportunity to score in the 14th minute of the match. Receiving a lay-off from Willis Plaza, the winger attempted a shot from inside the box but the ball went above the crossbar.

The visitors were physically more dominant in the midfield and outmuscled the East Bengal players quite easily.

Toni Dovale got the best chance of the match at the stroke of half time. Enrique Esqueda delivered low into the box from the right flank. Dovale had just goalkeeper Vigneshwaran Baskaran to beat in front of the goal but the Churchill custodian pulled off a marvellous save to deny the Spaniard from scoring the opening goal.

Churchill Brothers got a golden opportunity to break the deadlock in the 50th minute when Nenad Novakovic headed the ball on target from Nicholas Fernandes' corner but Rakshit Dagar saved it from the goal line.

Menendez brought in two new players early in the second half. Wingers Toni Dovale and Laldanmawia Ralte were replaced by Brandon Vanlalremdika and Jaime Santos Colado. The changes fueled East Bengal's intensity as they started attacking in numbers but Churchill defenders stood firm to nullify all the attacks.

Against the run of play Willis Plaza scored the opening goal following Nicholas Fernandes' through ball. East Bengal's Borja Gomez was at fault for allowing too much space to Plaza in front of the goal. The home side restored parity in the match when Lalrindika Ralte found the back of the net with a world class free-kick.

East Bengal kept the pressure on Churchill's backline after Didika's equaliser but failed to score a winning goal as the visitors defended valiantly.

The Red and Golds are now tied on points with Real Kashmir but are ahead on goal difference. They next face Aizawl FC on February 25 in Kolkata.

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