SILIGURI: There was no win in sight once again for East Bengal as Shillong Lajong put a spanner in their works with a 1-1 draw at the Kanchenjunga Stadium today (February 15, 2017).
Samuel Lalmuanpuia gave the visitors a shock lead in the 20th minute but Willis Plaza equalised in the 45th to restore parity.
In the second half, Kingfisher East Bengal had a flurry of chances but visiting keeper Vishal Kaith’s heroics under the bar ensured they take a point from the tie.
The result saw the Kolkata-outfit stay top of the table with 21 points from nine matches while Lajong moved to fourth with 13 points in their kitty playing the same number of matches.
The opening exchanges saw Plaza and Wedson Anselme combining well but debutant Christopher Payne was not in his elements to convert the chances.
Wedson came close to scoring but Kaith saved well diving low to his right.
Lajong took the lead much against the tide. Dipanda Dicka passed wide to Bipin Singh inside the box on the left with the latter floating the ball for Lalmuanpuia who headed home.
Had Dipanda’s diving header was not parried away by East Bengal custodian T.P. Rehenesh, it could be two goals to the good for the away side.
At the stroke of halftime, Plaza scored his sixth goal of the season. The former Trinidad & Tobago international nodded in Narayan Das’ cross with relative ease as Lajong backline was caught napping.
East Bengal went full throttle after the break in search of a goal.
Arnab Mondal made his season’s debut after the break, replacing Gurwinder Singh at centre back. Mondal had been nursing an injury he picked up a few months ago.
In the 49th minute, Payne got his first crack at goal but the Australian’s shot was meek with Kaith had no difficulty to save it.
Morgan replaced U-22 player Nikhil Poojary with Romeo Fernandes in the 71st minute in the hope of a goal. The signs were right as the game-time deprived former Dempo SC winger won a corner with his initial touches but nothing came of it.
Kaith pulled off a string of saves to deny the red and golds the winning goal in the final minutes as Lajong coach Thangboi Singto looked to settle for a point, bringing in defender Dan Ignat in place of the scorer Lalmuanpuia.