Kolkata, West Bengal: Willis Plaza’s presence of mind and Larindika Ralte’s accuracy resulted in a highly entertaining 1-1 draw between Quess East Bengal and Churchill Brothers FC Goa at the YVBK stadium, Salt Lake in Kolkata on Sunday.
Willis Plaza drew first blood for Churchill Brothers in the 68th minute, taking advantage of a miscommunication between Rakshit Dagar and Borja of Quess East Bengal. Hero of the Match Lalrindika Ralte restored parity for the Red and Golds with a stellar free-kick that found the back of the net, thanks to a great header from Kassim Aidara in the 78th minute.
While Quess East Bengal played with the same squad that drubbed Shillong Lajong FC 5-0, Churchill started with the introduction of Ivorian forward Christian Remi in place of Dawda Ceesay, who was ruled out for the season due to injury.
The game started with hosts Quess East Bengal pressing hard from the first minute, but Churchill Brothers kept their defence compact enough to not allow the Red and Gold brigade any clear opportunities to score. The game witnessed a heavy physical display from both ends.
As the game progressed, Quess East Bengal tried making a few attempts through long crosses and Joby Justin and Laldanmawia made the first of the many attempts when Churchill Brothers’ Bhaskaran bravely saved the latter’s strike.
The game, thereafter, saw both sides making numerous attempts but an alert defence on both ends ensured the score sheet remained goalless in the first 45 minutes. Churchill Brothers started making their attack visible, combining between Khalid Aucho, Christian Remi, Chesterpoul Lyngdoh, and Anthony Wolfe. The visitors, through this combination, came close a few times but full marks to the East Bengal Defence for standing tall denying the Goan outfit any opportunity to draw first blood in the first half.
The second half began with East Bengal pressing hard, as expected, to draw the first blood, but couldn’t create enough opportunities to threaten the Churchill defence. However, it was Churchill Brothers, who had the first attempt on the goal in the 50th minute, when a corner kick from Nicholas was beautifully headed by Novakovic. In the end, saved by Rakshit Dagar.
The game, thereafter, saw both teams playing a lot on the midfield, allowing each other no clear chance to threaten. Quess East Bengal, however, created most of the opportunities but a heavily laid out defence from Churchill Brothers ensured the hosts do not draw the first blood.
Churchill’s efforts were soon rewarded when a miscommunication between Borja Perez and Rakshit Dagar saw Willis Plaza poach the opportunity to draw first blood in the 68th minute, putting Churchill Brothers in lead.
Disturbed and rattled for conceding from their own mistake, East Bengal took to attacking with a vengeance, creating many close opportunities.
A silly tackle in the 77th minute by Churchill’s Rowlinson led to a free-kick being awarded to Quess East Bengal from just outside the box. Lalrindika Ralte made no mistake as he sent in a perfect cross, which took a touch off Kassim Aidaraa’s head before bulging the back of the net, giving the hosts the much-needed equaliser in the 78th minute.
The game, thereafter, was a mix bag with both teams taking their chances at the goal but to no success. In the end, both the sides settled for a point each as the title race heats up.
East Bengal have now climbed up to the second spot on the Hero I-League table, tied on 32 points (from 16 games) with Real Kashmir. However, the Red and Golds are ahead due to a better goal difference. Meanwhile, Chennai City FC, who play Shillong Lajong on Monday, lead the pack with 34 points, having played the same number of matches.