Continuing their unbeaten run, debutants Real Kashmir held giants East Bengal to a 1-1 draw in an I-League encounter in Kolkata on Friday.
Eyeing a fourth win in a row in the year’s last fixture, East Bengal came out all guns blazing only to score an own goal when their full-back Lalram Chullova found his own net right after the break in his comeback match.
It was man-of-the-match Jobby Justin who levelled in the 56th minute to salvage one point for the red-and-gold brigade who slipped to fourth in the table with 16 points, with a game in hand.
The strong physical presence of the Snow Leopards made a difference early on as East Bengal found it tough to make inroads.
East Bengal’s leading scorer Justin curled in a cross from the right flank to set up Jaime Colado at the edge of the box but the Spaniard’s shot went over the bar early on.
Real Kashmir also had their chances when strikers Koffi Tetteh and Gnohere Krizo kept keeper Rakshit Dagar on his toes with three shots on target between them just before the break.
Both the teams failed to found the target in the first half and it was much to the dismay of the 19000-odd strong East Bengal fans that Chullova deposited the ball into his own net after the changeover.
Kashmir midfielder Surchandra Singh sent a cross from the right flank and Chullova accidentally found his own net.
East Bengal looked desperate after conceding the goal and it was Laldanmawia Ralte who shot over the crossbar in the 49th minute.
Minutes later, Santos attempted a volley but the result was no different with the ball sailing over the crossbar.
East Bengal continued to press hard and finally got the equaliser from a corner which Lalrindika Ralte swung in before Justin brought up his sixth goal from nine matches to salvage the draw.
The result meant that the first team from the Kashmir are unbeaten from six matches to climb past Chennai City on goal difference.
Three teams including Neroca FC, who defeated Mohun Bagan earlier Friday, are on 18 points. Eduardo Ferreira opened the scoring for the Manipuri side against his former employers, as Neroca were off to fast start.
In the second half, Henry Kisseka headed into an empty net after Lalit Thapa misjudged Darren Caldeira’s cross into the box. But Shankar Roy’s weak punch six minutes later put Bagan in trouble when Subhash Singh kicked it right back at the keeper.
Aryn Williams got a touch to get Neroca’s second and earn them a win, taking them to the top of the table, on head-to-head rules.