East Bengal's unbeaten streak extended to seven matches on Monday despite playing with a man less for more than 60 minutes against Chenaniyin FC on Monday.
However, five of those have been draws for the Red and Golds. And it seemed like they were playing for an outright win against Chennaiyin in the first half. For the first time this season, the Red and Golds' attack trio of Anthony Pilkington, Bright Enobakhare and Jacques Maghoma started a match together.
German midfielder Matti Steinmann, who looked extremely tired in the previous game, though had to sit out. Robbie Fowler switched back to a four-man defence which allowed East Bengal to be more attacking right from the beginning.
The Red and Golds looked the better side in the first half hour while Chennaiyin had a couple of moments from set-pieces of their own. It looked to be evolving into an enthralling tussle but for two moments of rash play from central midfielder Ajay Chhetri. For his second bookable offence in the 30th minute, the midfielder saw red and East Bengal were facing a situation all too familiar for them.
For a third time this season, East Bengal were down to 10-men fairly early in the game. And for the third time this season, they defied their opponents to gain a draw in such a situation. The spirit is definitely there in the team and had Anthony Pilkington been a bit more clinical, they could have won the game.
It is almost as if East Bengal have become masters of playing a game with 10-men.
Yes, in the second half, Fowler was forced to consolidate the team's midfield as Jacques Maghoma was asked to play a deeper role along with Bright Enobakhare. Both the players worked tirelessly in the midfield and made sure that East Bengal never had to face sustained spells of pressure.ISL
Chennaiyin, on the other hand, are looking more and more like a team that is shorn of confidence when it comes to putting the ball into the back of the net. They failed to utilise the numerical advantage effectively and were not convincing in the attacking third. They were also guilty of being profligate which has now become a hallmark of this team. East Bengal goalkeeper Debjit Majumder must also be credited for pulling off a few good saves.
The Marina Machans have lacked creativity upfront ever since their skipper Rafael Crivellaro went out of action with a knee injury. Anirudh Thapa, was asked to play an advanced role in Crivellar's absence but Chennaiyin did miss the Brazilian's authority and presence. Also, Thapa was substituted at half-time due to an injury. They would badly want Manuel Lanzarote, currently in quarantine, in the team.ISL
While the decision of sending Ajay Chhetri off the pitch with a second yellow card cannot be questioned, East Bengal had to suffer 18 fouls on them and yet only two Chennaiyin players were cautioned in the match compared East Bengal three yellow cards though had committed only nine fouls.
Coach Robbie Fowler looked agitated throughout the game and had even lashed out at the officials after the game.
In the end, the Liverpool legend would feel content after a moral victory over Csaba Laszlo, having snatched a point yet again in trying circumstances.