Late goal denies I-League leaders Minerva Punjab FC win against East Bengal | football | Hindustan Times
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Late goal denies I-League leaders Minerva Punjab FC win against East Bengal

Trailing 0-2 to Minerva Punjab FC, East Bengal missed a penalty but managed to come back from behind to secure a draw in their I-League match at Kolkata today.

football Updated: Jan 30, 2018 19:58 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
East Bengal fought back from 2-0 down to secure a 2-2 draw vs Minerva Punjab in an I-League match in Kolkata today.
East Bengal fought back from 2-0 down to secure a 2-2 draw vs Minerva Punjab in an I-League match in Kolkata today. (AIFF)

Brandon Vanlalremdika’s 88th minute goal kept alive this season’s battle for the I-League.

It is still Minerva Punjab FC’s to lose but the point East Bengal got through that late strike ensured they stay in the race, if only just, with a 2-2 draw at Barasat stadium near here on Tuesday.

That result seemed difficult when East Bengal were trailing 0-2 through goals from Sukhdev Singh (20th) and Chencho Gyeltsen (33rd) and after Katsumi Yusa had fluffed a 50th minute penalty.

The crowd was getting restive but Joby Justin calmed nerves somewhat with a 59th minute reducer and the late leveller left both teams ruing what might have been.

“We are still in it,” said East Bengal coach Khalid Jamil. “One point from an away game is all right though it could well have been three,” said Minerva Punjab FC coach W Khogen Singh.

After 11 rounds, Minerva Punjab FC, still undefeated in Kolkata this term, are on 26 points. Having avoided a second successive loss following the derby debacle on January 21, East Bengal moved to 20 points from 12 games to stay third.

Proof of how different the campaigns have been for the teams came in East Bengal making seven changes to the starting 11 that lost 0-2 to Mohun Bagan. The away team replaced only two players from the side that beat NEROCA FC 1-0.

Among those Jamil changed was goalie Luis Barreto. His replacement Ubaid CK denied Sukhdev Singh the first time but could do little when East Bengal defender Salam Ranjan Singh failed to clear his lines and Sukhdev Singh got another try on goal.

It was 2-0 through a Gyeltshen solo after East Bengal central defender Eduardo Ferreira and midfielder Armand Bazie failed to prevent Gagandeep Bali’s square pass from reaching the Bhutanese sniper. Gyletshen, 21, now has goals against Mohun Bagan and East Bengal in his first season in India. He is second in the race for the golden boot with six goals, one less than Mohun Bagan’s Dipanda Dicka.

Soon enough Ansumana Kromah, who joined East Bengal after Mohun Bagan released him, started warming up. Kromah almost found Dudu Omagbemi but with goalie Kiran Chemjong to beat, the East Bengal striker couldn’t make a connection.

East Bengal claimed a penalty when Guy Eric Dano felled Yusa but referee Tejas Nagvenkar thought otherwise. They did get one when Laldanmawia Ralte was brought down. And Yusa failed to score because Chemjong had guessed right.

But it was through Yusa’s corner-kick that Justin scored, heading over defender Deepak Devrani, one of changes Minerva Punjab FC had made to the starting line-up. The goal that drew the loudest cheer came from a neat four-pass move and ended with Vanlalremdika finding the net.