East Bengal managed to salvage a point against Churchill Brothers at the Salt Lake stadium on Saturday evening courtesy of a late goal from Jaime Santos, which cancelled out Willis Plaza's early opener.
East Bengal coach Mario Rivera made three changes to the line up from their previous match. Victor Perez, Rohlupuia and Brandon Fernandes were handed a start, replacing Lalrindika Ralte, Ansumana Kromah, and a suspended Kassim Aidara.
His opposite number Fernando Tavares made two alterations with James Kithan in goal in place of Sukhdev Patil and Robert Primus returning to action.
It was a brisk start to the match with Churchill dominating possession. The Red Machines reaped rewards for their constant pressure with Plaza breaking the deadlock as early as the 10th minute. Mehtab Singh messed up a clearance and the ball fell kindly for the former East Bengal striker. The Trinidadian kept his composure and after outfoxing Asheer Akhtar, he slotted past a hapless Mirshad K.
Within a minute, East Bengal could have levelled matters with their attacking trio combining to perfection. Jaime Santos found Jimenez with a lobbed ball and the striker, in turn, teed up Brandon whose shot went inches wide of the post.
East Bengal continued raiding Churchill's fort with intent and purpose. This time Brandon released Jimenez on the right flank and the Spaniard drilled in a low cross for his compatriot Santos. The former Gijon B player struck a venomous shot at goal but James Kithan dived to his left to stop the ball from trickling into the net.
Just before the break, Mapuia could have doubled the advantage but the Manipuri striker scuffed his header from close-range, much to the relief of Rivera in the dugout.
East Bengal came out from the tunnel with renewed vigour in search of an equaliser. And arguably the best chance of the match fell for the Red and Golds in the 54th minute when they broke away from a Churchill Brothers corner.
Brandon released Mera and the former Celta Vigo B winger galloped away with acres of space in front of him. Robert Primus was about to close him down but he passed the ball to Santos who was through on goal but the forward could not beat Kithan from a one-on-one.
Suresh Meitei brought down Kromah in the last minute of injury time and referee Rowan Arumughan immediately pointed to the spot. Kithan saved Santos' effort from the spot but the rebound was smashed into the net by the Spaniard.
East Bengal will return to action on March 3 when they face Gokulam Kerala away from home whereas Churchill will go up against TRAU a day later.