East Bengal, Jamshedpur FC start with barren draw | Football News - Hindustan Times

East Bengal, Jamshedpur FC start with barren draw

Sep 25, 2023 11:18 PM IST

In four seasons, East Bengal are yet to win their first match of Indian Super League

In keeping with Brazilian tradition of long names, he is Elson Jose Dias Junior. In the middle of Jamshedpur FC’s back three, the big centre-back was everywhere and doing everything to protect his goal. With lunging headers, interceptions and blocks, the 30-year-old was instrumental in Jamshedpur FC starting the 10th season of Indian Super League (ISL) with a 0-0 draw away to East Bengal.

The first draw of the season also meant that in four attempts, East Bengal have not been able to win their opening game.(PTI)
The first draw of the season also meant that in four attempts, East Bengal have not been able to win their opening game.(PTI)

The first draw of the season also meant that in four attempts, East Bengal have not been able to win their opening game.

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On the rare occasion, East Bengal managed to get past Elsinho – which is what he is called in keeping with the Brazilian tradition of giving their players nicknames – they couldn’t beat TP Rehenesh. Once at East Bengal, the Jamshedpur FC goalkeeper pulled off a double save to deny the home team from going ahead.

That was in the 43rd minute when Rehenesh stopped a Borja Herrera shot and then stuck out a leg to deny Mahesh Naorem. Armed with a new three-year deal and fresh from a short vacation, Naorem, who could have been in the Asian Games squad but for a niggle in the King’s Cup earlier this month, looked fresh was buzzing on the left as East Bengal channeled most of their attacks from that side.

Replaced by 16-year-old Guite Vanlalpeka, whom East Bengal have scouted from the India under-17 side, in the 90th minute, Naorem will not travel even though India are one player short of the 22 they could register. According to an official with the team in Hangzhou, the only player who can still travel for India’s round-of-16 game against Saudi Arabia on Thursday is Jeakson Singh and he is unlikely to be released by Kerala Blasters.

With Nandhakumar Sekar busy on the other side, Jamshedpur FC were stretched at Salt Lake stadium here on Monday. East Bengal forced three corner-kicks by the eighth minute and a fourth soon after where Sekar was blocked by Laldinpuia. In between, Herrera shanked his shot after Naorem found the Spaniard in a pocket of space on the left.

For greater possession and more passes, East Bengal had a string of half-chances barring that Rehenesh double save. The goalkeeper from Kerala had come to the team’s rescue once earlier when he left his line to deny Javier Sivero in the 38th minute after Mandar Rao Dessai and Herrera had again opened up the left.

With Jamshedpur FC starting Imran Khan and Nikhil Barla in a bid to try and test Naorem and Sekar’s defensive abilities, this was game where most attacks were from the flanks. But Jamshedpur FC were shy of testing Prabhsukan Gill in East Bengal goal. Barla had beaten Naorem in the 18th minute and found Daniel Chima Chukwu but after beating Jose Pardo, the dreadlocked Nigerian forward tried to find Alen Stevanovic and the pass was deflected out. It was the same for Stevanovic at the stroke of half-time.

More of that came in the second half when Stevanovic squared instead of trying to go solo. Pronay Halder, who had a physical battle in the centre of the pitch with Souvik Chakraborty leading to both being booked and taken off in the second half, had a shot that crashed into the side-netting. Late in the game, Emil Benny was in a defensive sandwich with Edwin Vanspaul and Harmanjot Khabra, the veteran defender slotting in at the heart of the defence with Pardo after playing as full back and in the midfield in the Durand Cup.

By then Thongkhosiem Haokip had failed to keep a shot and a header on target. It would have been some story had the former East Bengal player scored given that his house in Imphal was torched in May and his family forced out. Forced to flee Imphal, football was far from Haokip’s mind for months.

The night of errors from frontline players ended with referee I Jamal Mohamed committing one when he showed the red card to Jamshedpur FC’s Emil Benny in the fifth minute of second-half stoppage time for pushing Saul Crespo. Benny, in for Stevanovic in the 76th, walked off without a murmur but was soon called back and allowed to continue with a booking.

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    Dhiman Sarkar is based in Kolkata and has been a sport journalist for over three decades. He writes mainly on football.

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