I-League 2015/16: East Bengal's slim title hopes end with draw

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Image Courtesy: © Facebook - East Bengal

I-League 2015/16: East Bengal's slim title hopes end with draw

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Arun S Kaimal


East Bengal’s slim hopes of winning the I-League ended on Friday after they played out a goalless draw against Sporting Clube de Goa at the Barasat Stadium in Kolkata. Both teams ended the game with ten men after Mehrajuddin Wadoo and Narayan Das received red cards in the second half.

Starting Line-ups:

East Bengal: Barreto (GK), Samad, Deepak(C), Bello, Narayan, Mehtab, Shylo, Sanju, Abranches, Dong, Ranti

Sporting Clube de Goa: Arindam(GK), Wadoo, Bose, Loveday, Fulganco, Shirodkar, Al-Amna, Borges, Ganesh, Nicholas, Odafa(C)

The Red and Gold Brigade, who still had a slim chance of winning the I-League title, went into their penultimate match of the season without their coach Biswajit Bhattacharya after the former footballer resigned from the post on Monday. Goalkeeping coach, Sanjay Majhi and assistant manager Debjit Ghosh took joint charge of the affairs with Trevor Morgan, the new man at the helm, only expected to take charge after the I-League season.

East Bengal made seven changes to the XI that suffered a humiliating 3-1 defeat against Bengaluru FC last week, with only Bello Razaq, Sanju Pradhan, Do Dong-Hyun and Ranti Martins keeping their places.

On the other hand, Sporting Clube de Goa went into the match in a comfortable position after thrashing Shillong Lajong 5-2 in their last match to secure their place in the league for the next season. Coach Mateus Costa started with influential striker and captain Odafa Okolie, who returned from an injury, before substituting him early into the match after the Nigerian aggravated histhe injury.

Although, the Kolkata team had a mathematical chance of winning the league, the fans at the stadium did not think much of the mathematical possibility and conducted a 13th-minute walk out in protest of the team not winning a national league title in the last 13 years. With the all the action happening in the stands, things got off to a placid start on the field, with both sets of players taking it easy in the initial minutes.

Apart from the chances Ranti Martins’ received, the first forty-five minutes of the match proved to be a disappointment for the ones watching with neither team producing any credible attacking moves. The I-League’s top scorer had a chance to add to the goal tally in the 31st minute, but the Nigerian striker went for a cheeky back heel off Do Dong-Hyun’s pass, only to see it going wide of the goal.

After a drab first forty-five, the match finally took off in the second half with both sides producing end-to-end stuff in the initial minutes. With the match picking up pace, East Bengal introduced highly-talented midfielder Lalrindika Ralte, who has been injured since the beginning of the ISL, in place of Abranches in the 55th minute. He made an instant impact as Ralte broke the off-side trap of the Goans to take a shot at the Goal. Arindam Bhattacharya kept it out with a brilliant save, but Sporting suffered a blow minutes later after Wadoo picked up two yellow cards in quick succession. The Kashmiri brought down Ralte and stamped on him to receive the marching orders from referee Balasubramaniam.

With an one-man advantage, the home side pushed ahead for a goal in the last thirty minutes with Ralte causing all sorts of problems for the Goan side. But, Sporting broke the momentum garnered by the home side through a series of fouls to leave East Bengal frustrated. The frustration paved way to rash challenges from both sides, and East Bengal’s Narayan Das also received his marching orders in the 86th minute after he stamped on Joseph Clemente. The last few minutes proved to be a mere formality as East Bengal ended their mathematical hopes of winning the I-League title after playing out a draw.  

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